First Nations and other nations in Canada are eager to participate in mineral development projects but are often ignored, a panel heard at the In-Depth BEV conference in Sudbury.
"The reason why treaties [between First Nations and settlers] exist is because of mining," Chief Gimaa Craig Nootchai of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek said.
"We want to be partners [with mineral developers], we want to be sitting at the table with decision-makers."
Progress in developing Canada's critical minerals is moving very quickly, and mining companies and governments are "far behind" discussing these projects with local nations.
"Canada is saying that by 2030, this is what our target is going to be," he said. "All of this is going to be happening on our territory and traditional lands. We want to participate in it, and benefit. We are not a challenge - we are a partner."
He contrasted the experience of Aboriginal groups in British Columbia with those in Ontario.
"In BC, they encourage proponents of projects to work with nations," Nootchai said. "In Ontario, it's much different. Ontario has formed resource revenue sharing agreements with communities in northern Ontario. Why isn't that consistent across the board [in the province]?"
He believes that everyone would benefit from greater inclusion in mining projects.
"When resources are extracted here by foreign companies, the money doesn't stay in Sudbury, it goes off-shore. Any money that I would get for our community [from mining companies], I'll be spending it in Sudbury."
For others, environmental protection is paramount.
"We need to do something about global mining, and we want to make sure that whatever we do with mining, that we take care of the land," Chief Larry Roque of Wahnapitae First Nation said.
"We don't want to hold anybody back, we just want to work together to get to the same end."
Chief Alan Ozawanimki of Sagamok Anishnawbek said he understands that young people in his community want to stay away from mining because they regard it as "not clean."
However, Ozawanimki is encouraged by the progress he's seen in the sector.
"I see the work that's being done to protect Mother Earth, and return her to the original state," he said. He will continue to advocate working with the industry.
"We have a lot of catching up to do" in terms of indigenous relations and the mining sector, he said. "We need to move forward in a way that we can continue to support the industry, because all of us need to survive and move forward, albeit in a respectful way."