Pilot project prepares Tahltan members for mining careers

Participants will receive heavy equipment training, mentorship and exposure to life in a work camp

Red Chris Mine

The Red Chris mine is 70 km south of Dease Lake, B.C. – Newcrest Mining

Key Takeaways:

  • A new pilot project will provide heavy equipment operator training in Tahltan Territory.
  • The training will include other qualifications necessary to work on B.C. mining projects. 
  • The program will receive support from the province, local officials and the mining industry. 
  • Tahltan Territory is home to approximately 70 per cent of B.C.’s resource rich Golden Triangle, including two of the 10 operating metal mines in the province (Red Chris and Brucejack).

The Whole Story:

Tahltan Nation Development Corporation (TNDC) has partnered with the Tahltan Central Government (TCG), Government of British Columbia, and several industry partners to create a pilot Tahltan Nation Heavy Equipment Operator Training Program. 

The Tahltan Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) Training Program will prepare local workers for mining careers by combining equipment training in Tahltan Territory with on-the-job practical operating work experience and camp life exposure. In addition to building capacity within the Tahltan community, the training program will integrate Tahltan regional and traditional knowledge on local projects while tapping into senior experienced Tahltan operators. 

The project’s industry partners include the Centre of Training Excellence in Mining, Coast Mountain College, Contact North BC, Finning, Mining in HR Council, Newcrest Mining Limited, and SkilledTradesBC.

Acquiring heavy equipment skills

The program aims to align with SkilledTradesBC (formerly Industry Training Authority) learning outcomes as well as the Mining in HR Council common competencies. TNDC officials said it will provide a mixture of workplace safety training, underground miner fundamentals, HEO simulator training, and at least 140 hours of hands-on training, focussed on a progressive approach to learning heavy equipment operation over three years. Additional pieces of equipment will be added each year. 

Participants will receive four weeks of hands-on heavy equipment operator training, followed by job placement as an apprentice with an industry partner in Tahltan Territory, focussing on the relevant pieces of equipment they learn each year, to build up their hours that season, and complete their SkilledTradesBC certification. 

Officials say that at the outset, the program will also support Tahltans in acquiring their Class 4, 5 and 7 drivers’ licenses in territory, and provide a one-week camp life orientation at the Red Chris Mine. Travel, accommodation, meals, and a training stipend will be provided during training while full apprenticeship wages will be paid during the job placement.

During the training and work season, participants will also receive support from senior Tahltan heavy equipment operators, who will be supported in challenging the SkilledTradesBC HEO Certification, as well as building skills as mentors through additional ongoing training with the Mining in HR Council and Coast Mountain College. 

Major mining opportunities

Tahltan Territory, located in remote northwest British Columbia, is home to approximately 70 per cent of B.C.’s resource rich Golden Triangle, including two of the 10 operating metal mines in BC (Red Chris and Brucejack). Tahltan Territory is also home to approximately 14 per cent of Canada’s exploration expenditures, approximately 3 per cent of the global exploration budget, approximately $295 million of mineral exploration expenditure, and $1.05 billion of total projected mining production values. Demand for skilled, experienced and certified HEOs will continue to grow in the decades to come.

“Despite global financial headwinds, there is and will continue to be a significant need for experienced Heavy Equipment Operators with TNDC and in Tahltan Territory,” said Colleen Cashin, vice president of people & corporate culture at TNDC. “TNDC saw an opportunity to tap into new funding opportunities and partner with TCG, the province and industry to create a program that is more cost effective and Tahltan oriented, and that will provide the certification skills and training TNDC and our industry partners need.”

She noted that TNDC frequently receives resumes from new Tahltan operators who have spent several weeks outside territory attending a heavy equipment operator program, returning without complete qualifications to work on an active mine site and operate heavy equipment. 

“I am thrilled at the opportunity this course will create for Tahltans wishing to pursue a career that allows them to be trained in Tahltan Territory and encourages them to use their skills in our communities after completion,” said Chad Norman Day, President of the Tahltan Central Government. 

Supporting local workers

Chad Norman, president of the Tahltan Central Government said that they are looking to support members in finding careers and employment opportunities, including through the use of OnTrack, a Tahltan exclusive job site. 

“I have repeatedly emphasized that for there to be world-class mining in our territory, there is a need for world-class wildlife stewardship, but in addition to this, world-class mining cannot exist in Tahltan Territory without Tahltans being included in the workforce,” said Norman. “We support breaking down any barriers that have traditionally prevented our members from accessing  employment opportunities. Tahltans must benefit from preferential hire by those operating in our territory. I am excited to see the doors that this program and partnership will open for Tahltans.” 


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