A Tahltan woman is being nationally recognized for her efforts in improving the environmental assessment process by combining Indigenous traditional knowledge with Western science.
Nalaine Morin has been awarded the 2021 Skookum Jim Award by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC).
Named after the group’s Indigenous leader who discovered the Yukon Klondike goldfields, the award recognizes Indigenous achievement in the mineral industry.
Morin has more than 15 years of experience in mining and environmental management and is the principal of ArrowBlade Consulting Services based in Smithers.
“I’m excited and very humbled by the recognition,” she said. “Just looking at the people that have won the award previous to me, it’s pretty awesome.”
The Tahltan Central Government (TCG) lands director was fresh out of UBC where she had studied metals and material engineering when she obtained a mining job in Flin Flon, Man.
She eventually returned to B.C.
“I’m Tahltan, and in Tahltan Territory, there’s high mineral potential there,” she said, alluding to the area known as the ‘Golden Triangle’ where a lot of mineral activity has occurred.
Among her many achievements, Morin was instrumental in creating and executing a joint permitting process and agreement for the Red Chris mine that ensures her nation has a share in regulatory oversight of the mine located 80 kilometres south of Dease Lake. As a member of B.C.’s Standing Code Review Committee, she encouraged the province to revise its mining and regulations standards regarding tailings storage facilities following the 2014 Mount Polley tailings spill.
In 2005, Morin helped establish the Tahltan heritage resource environmental assessment team.
“There are several things that we do to help support or bridge the gap between the nation that I work with, primarily with Tahltan and our industry partners,” she said.
“And a lot of that work stems from creating opportunities to talk to one another, to engage and to communicate, and that was one of the first things that we did when we established our technical working group.”
The TCG has always put a significant emphasis on ensuring Tahltan communities are informed, Morin added.
She said structured and legislated timelines, such as receiving an environmental assessment application, do not always align with communities’ needs requiring meaningful dialogue and full understanding of projects.
“We’re asking industry and government to do it differently, and we have a right to do that as Indigenous nations with Indigenous government, so it takes a little bit of time to embrace this new way of doing things.”
The PDAC Awards date back to 1977 and are “a way for outstanding performers in the Canadian and international mineral exploration and mining industry to be recognized on the world stage for their achievements.”
Recipients will be celebrated at an awards gala and after-party and during PDAC’s virtual convention in March.
“I want to ensure that my work creates the opportunity and provides support for Indigenous nations to make decisions on Indigenous lands,” Morin said.
“I think it’s really important in the work that we’re doing together as people that we understand the value that Indigenous peoples hold on the land, and take that into account in project planning,” she added.