Indigenous Engagement

Last updated on March 21, 2024

The relationship between the Province and Indigenous nations has evolved to include meaningful engagement with Indigenous nations on Crown actions that impact land and resources. The Province takes an inclusive approach to land and resource management and increasingly seeks Indigenous nations’ input into decision making processes.

The relationships between the Province and Indigenous nations are governed by both treaty and non-treaty agreementsSome of the key types of agreements related to the mining sector include treaties, Economic and Community Development Agreements, and Strategic Engagement Agreements. Proponents should be aware of any agreements with Indigenous nations with whom they are engaging, as they may impact key project factors such as permitting processes, land and water use, and capacity funding.

As outlined in the Building Relationships with First Nations: Respecting Rights and Doing Good Business (PDF, 522KB) guidance document, there are several benefits for industry in developing and maintaining strong relationships with Indigenous nations, including certainty for processes and durability of decisions, access to labour force, access to services, marketing and social responsibility, support for government consultation, and access to local knowledge.

Building respectful and mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous peoples can also contribute to overall reconciliation and Indigenous self-determination by helping to build sustainable local economies in Indigenous communities. Since this landscape is constantly evolving, it is critical that companies and Indigenous nations work together to understand each other’s needs and interests throughout the mine’s life. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to these relationships, actively listening, asking questions, and engaging early and often can help set the stage for a strong working relationship. 

B.C.'s Duty to Consult

The Province has a legal duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous nations, where required, on land and resource decisions that could impact claimed or established Aboriginal rights and title, or treaty rights (Aboriginal Interests). Consultation must be meaningful with the intention of addressing impacts to Aboriginal Interests, and should be carried out through a timely, reasonable, transparent and proactive process.  In some cases, circumstances may require that the Province seek and/or obtain the consent of the Indigenous community in order to make a decision about a potential authorization.

Consultation is guided by the interim Updated Procedures for Meeting Legal Obligations When Consulting First Nations (PDF, 800KB). These procedures provide a consistent and transparent process for provincial ministries, Indigenous nations, and proponents while safeguarding Aboriginal Interests in a manner consistent with the law. The procedures provide a baseline for government to meet its legal obligations. They do not replace or supersede the development of treaties, relationships, shared decision-making arrangements or other agreements. Where consultation agreements exist and apply to mining projects or authorizations, the consultation processes in those agreements should be followed.

Role of Proponents

While the Province has specific obligations, commitments and relationships with Indigenous nations on mining projects, proponents also play a key role during the authorizations process. The drop-down menus below provide actions that proponents can take to help build relationships with Indigenous nations throughout permitting review processes. These are suggestions only and proponents should work closely with Indigenous nations to define their relationship.


Pre-Application and Early Engagement

Before submitting an application, proponents should:

  • Advise Provincial government staff of intentions to engage with Indigenous nations
  • Ask questions and learn about Aboriginal Interests in the area, and potential concerns or opportunities with the project, and plan accordingly
  • Build respectful relationships with Indigenous nations potentially impacted by the proposed project
  • Inform and involve Indigenous nations in the planning phase of the project
  • Provide opportunities, where appropriate, for Indigenous nations involvement in collecting and/or developing information required for the application
  • Provide capacity funding or enter into other agreements or benefit arrangements, where appropriate, with potentially impacted Indigenous nations to assist with early engagement participation
  • Keep Indigenous nations advised of milestones (eg. application submission dates)
  • Start and maintain an engagement record and document Indigenous rights and interests
  • Provide a site tour to show the proposed project area and the overall mine operations

Application Review

During application review, proponents should:

  • Participate in meetings and present on the project
  • Respond to questions, comments or concerns about the project from Indigenous nations
  • Continue to provide capacity funding, where appropriate, to assist Indigenous groups with participating in the review of their application
  • Obtain or discuss Indigenous nations’ concerns or interests, and possible mitigation or accommodation options to address impacts
  • Provide documents and records of engagement such as communications logs, summaries of activities, and descriptions of Indigenous rights and interests
  • Attend community meetings to present on the project and answer questions
  • Consider modifications to plans to avoid or mitigate impacts to Aboriginal Interests
  • Provide updates on projects and engagement activities

After Permitting

After a permit is issued, proponents should:

  • Implement or fulfil any commitments that were made. Commitments may be included as permit conditions, which may be followed up on by the Province, or may be agreed upon between the proponent and the Indigenous nations
  • Understand how to engage on subsequent authorizations associated with the operation of the mine
  • Provide workforce opportunities, training, compliance and monitoring program participation, where appropriate
  • Continue to communicate with Indigenous nations to maintain strong relationships