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Engaging with Indigenous Peoples

Management approach and performance related to our work with Indigenous Peoples including engagement, agreements, benefits and disputes.

Why was Engaging with Indigenous Peoples a Material Topic in 2016?

There are more than 370 million Indigenous People living around the world in 90 countries , who have unique rights, cultures and connection to the land. Historically, many Indigenous Peoples have suffered abuse, discrimination and marginalization and, as a result, many live in poverty and their cultural traditions are threatened. Consequently, Indigenous Peoples are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of commercial development and business activities. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 169 and International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability provide international standards for engagement with Indigenous Peoples.

In many cases, mining activity is located within or adjacent to the territories of Indigenous Peoples. Exploration, development, operation, closure and reclamation of mines can have positive and negative impacts that can be particularly felt by Indigenous Peoples due to their inherent connection to the land. Positive impacts can include employment creation, opportunities for education and training, local economic development such as procurement from Indigenous sources, and valuable community investment projects. Negative impacts can include environmental impacts, economic volatility and changes to social well-being. The effects of these impacts can be particularly significant for Indigenous communities in comparison to other populations, including the potential disturbance of local land, water systems, biodiversity and heritage sites – all of which can be of cultural and/or spiritual significance.

In 2013, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) released an Indigenous Peoples and Mining Position Statement that applies to all member companies. This statement sets out an obligation for companies to work to obtain the consent of Indigenous Peoples for new projects and changes to existing projects that are located on lands traditionally owned by or under customary use of Indigenous Peoples. In particular, the position statement outlines ICMM’s view of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) as a process based on good faith negotiation, through which Indigenous Peoples can give or withhold their consent to a project. Members were required to align their practices with this position statement by 2015. 

The interpretation of Indigenous rights and their application to the natural resource development industry continues to evolve. In 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a significant decision with respect to the jurisdictional powers and Aboriginal title rights of First Nations in Canada. The case of Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia made Canadian history as the first time that Aboriginal title has been definitively established by the Supreme Court of Canada. The decision also clarified and affirmed the ability of the provincial government to establish regulatory frameworks over natural resource development and environmental values, subject to certain consultation and accommodation requirements. In 2015, the provincial government and Tsilhqot’in Nation worked together towards setting the terms and goals for negotiating land, governance and resource agreements over the Tsilhqot’in territory. 

Learn More
Indigenous Peoples and Mining Good Practice Guide — ICMM

Nine of our 12 operations  in Canada, Chile and the United States and the majority of our exploration and development projects are located within or adjacent to Indigenous Peoples’ territories. As such, we recognize that respecting the rights, cultures, interests and aspirations of Indigenous Peoples is fundamental to our business and to meeting our commitment to responsible resource development. In 2015, Teck formalized our Indigenous Peoples Policy, which confirms our approach to working with Indigenous Peoples including our commitment to FPIC.

Performance Highlights


new agreements were reached with Indigenous Peoples in 2015,
taking our total number of active  agreements in place to 34


employees at 11 sites completed
Indigenous Peoples cultural awareness training 

In 2015,

we formalized our Indigenous Peoples Policy

Our Targets and Commitments

Teck respects the rights, cultures, interests and aspirations of Indigenous Peoples and is committed to building strong and lasting relationships that help us understand each other’s perspectives and priorities as outlined in our Indigenous Peoples Policy.

Our approach is to engage with Indigenous Peoples early in our planning processes, and work to achieve their free, prior and informed consent when proposing new or substantially modified projects. It is our aim to integrate the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples into company decision-making throughout the mining life cycle and to create lasting benefits that respect their unique interests and aspirations. Not only is early and meaningful engagement with Indigenous Peoples a matter of international law and governance, it  also helps Teck advance projects in a timely, cost-effective manner. 

Our engagement with Indigenous Peoples is conducted by Communities staff at each of our operations, project or exploration sites and supported by our corporate Indigenous Affairs team. Our Vice President, Community and Government Relations and Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs provide guidance and oversight on our engagement with Indigenous Peoples. We also have an executive Indigenous Affairs steering committee that includes our CEO and senior management representing our business units, projects and exploration group, which provides oversight and guidance on major initiatives with Indigenous Peoples including the negotiation of agreements.

In this section, we outline our Indigenous Peoples Policy, our approach to recognizing and respecting the interests and rights of Indigenous Peoples, negotiating agreements and supporting traditional knowledge and land use studies. 

In 2015, Teck released an Indigenous Peoples Policy that confirms our commitment to working with Indigenous Peoples to ensure Indigenous rights, cultural heritage and traditional land use are respected. In particular, it confirms our commitment to working to achieve the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples when proposing new or substantially modified projects. The policy was developed with input and guidance from Indigenous Peoples from our local communities as well as leading international and local agencies with expertise in Indigenous and mining policy. Teck’s Indigenous Peoples Policy is included in full in the snapshot.

We acknowledge and respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights and interests as enshrined in regional, national and international law, and we understand that the extent to which Indigenous Peoples’ rights are legally recognized varies by jurisdiction. In Canada, for example, certain Indigenous Peoples’ rights regarding access to land have been articulated in treaties, while other historical or traditional rights are generally not documented or clearly defined. The law related to Aboriginal title in Canada, as elsewhere, continues to evolve. In Chile, the federal government intends to establish a Ministry of Indigenous Communities to define a national policy to implement and strengthen the rights of Indigenous Peoples and their socio-economic, political and cultural development.

International law continues to shape requirements related to working with Indigenous Peoples. For example, application of International Labour Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention is already represented in Chilean law, which requires the state to consult Indigenous Peoples in regards to their lands and resources. 

Consultation can play an important role in regulatory approval processes and project development. As required by international conventions and typically by domestic law, many governments acknowledge various duties to consult with Indigenous Peoples. In certain situations, some or all aspects of consultation activities may be delegated to us. When our activities have the potential to affect Indigenous Peoples’ rights or traditional access to land, we seek opportunities for meaningful consultation to share information on our activities, to understand the interests of Indigenous Peoples and to develop measures to address impacts on those interests.

We believe that the best foundation for the establishment of stable, constructive and mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous Peoples is through the development of clear and predictable benefit agreements. These agreements create a framework for greater cooperation and clarity on topics such as consultation and engagement, the environment and land stewardship, employment and business opportunities, and typically include a financial component.

Our approach in negotiating agreements focuses on:

  • Recognizing the importance of building trust, mutual respect, cooperation and open communication of interests and concerns
  • Improving community well-being
  • Working with Indigenous Peoples in innovative and collaborative ways
  • Reducing business risk through effective consultation and other processes
  • Increasing project certainty

Agreements establish processes to work through grievances and other challenges, and help to fulfill our commitment to improving community well-being in self-defined ways while gaining the broad support of Indigenous communities.  

For Indigenous communities, the landscape and its features provide sustenance and spiritual attachment. The stories communicated through song and dance and the ongoing practice of ceremony or traditional practices, give places and features significance. To minimize impacts to Indigenous heritage and culture, Teck consults with Indigenous Peoples to promote mutual understanding and cooperation.

At our operations and resource development projects and, in some cases, at our exploration projects, we support the development of traditional land use studies and other community-based traditional knowledge studies to help us better understand the interests of Indigenous Peoples and our potential impacts on those interests.

What was Teck’s Performance in Engagement with Indigenous Peoples in 2015?

In this section, we report on agreements, feedback from and disputes with Indigenous Peoples, procurement from Indigenous suppliers, community investment focused on Indigenous Peoples and cultural awareness training. 

Agreements with Indigenous Peoples 

Building constructive relationships with Indigenous Peoples and pursuing understanding and shared commitments through agreements have taken on increasing importance in our activities. Negotiations to reach an agreement can take considerable time, and there must be a shared understanding of the expectations of both parties. Although we recognize that agreements are important milestones, the relationship itself is the true indicator of success. 

As a result of our long-standing commitment to reaching agreements with Indigenous Peoples, Teck currently has agreements in place with Indigenous People at the majority of our operations and major exploration projects. In 2015, we focused on advancing agreements for Quebrada Blanca Operations, Frontier and Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 projects and our steelmaking coal operations.

Of the 12 operations covered in the scope of this 2015 Sustainability Report, 9 are located within or adjacent to Indigenous Peoples’ territories, and we have established or are negotiating agreements with all of these Indigenous groups. 

Table 17: Active Agreements with Indigenous Groups at our Operations 

Operations Within or Adjacent to Indigenous Peoples’ Territory

Name of Indigenous Group

Formal Agreements with Indigenous Groups

Cardinal River

Alexis Nakota Sioux

Impact Benefit Agreement

Elk Valley

Ktunaxa Nation Council

Impact Management and Benefit Agreement*

Shuswap Indian Band

Memorandum of Understanding

Highland Valley Copper

Nlaka'pamux Nation Tribal Council (NNTC)

Joint Relationship Agreement

Nlaka'pamux Participating Bands (CNA)

Participation Agreement

Lower Nicola Indian Band

Negotiation Agreement

Quebrada Blanca

Tamentica and Copaquire

Working Protocol Agreement

Ecozona Matilla

Framework Agreement

Quechua Indigenous Community from Huatacondo

Benefits and Protocol Agreement

Red Dog

Iñupiat of Northwest Alaska

Development and Operating Agreement

*In May 2016, the Ktunaxa Nation Council and Teck announced the signing of an Impact Management and Benefits Agreement that spans approximately 40 years and all five steelmaking coal operations in the Elk Valley.

Our agreements with Indigenous Peoples traditionally address the full range of our activities from early stages of exploration to closure. Agreements can cover short-term, seasonal project work and long-term operations. Active agreements are defined as agreements that have come in effect and are currently in force.

To date, Teck has negotiated many agreements with Indigenous Peoples in countries such as Canada, Chile, Peru, Australia and the United States. These agreements range from general Memoranda of Understanding to more comprehensive, long-term agreements such as those noted in the table above. The total number of agreements varies from year to year, as shorter-term agreements, common at the exploration stage, may expire or evolve into more comprehensive agreements. In 2015, there were 34 active  agreements in place with Indigenous Peoples, including newly signed agreements or agreements already in implementation.

Grievances and Litigation

There are a number of processes through which our COIs can inform us of concerns, including formal grievance mechanisms, dispute resolution clauses in agreements and ongoing engagement. In 2015, there were five grievances under our existing agreements or through our formal grievance mechanisms involving Indigenous Peoples. This includes a concern regarding recreational hunting near one of our advanced projects.
Environmental litigation regarding the Upper Columbia River and involving the Confederated Colville Tribes and the Spokane Tribe of Indians continues. For more information, visit the Upper Columbia River project website. 

Procurement from Indigenous Peoples Suppliers

In 2015, our operations spent approximately $142 million on suppliers who self-identified as Indigenous; this represents an overall increase of 11%, or nearly $17.5 million over the prior year. The vast majority of this spending is at our Red Dog Operations, where Indigenous Peoples’ procurement is a cornerstone of our operating agreement, which governs the operation and development of the mine. In 2015, 67.9% of Red Dog’s spending was with Indigenous suppliers.

We are developing initiatives aimed at increasing procurement from Indigenous suppliers through the establishment of business development support tools and tracking and evaluation systems for our Indigenous procurement process. For example, where we have formal agreements with Indigenous Peoples, we identify local Indigenous suppliers and develop processes to share information on procurement opportunities and our supplier qualification requirements. In some situations, we work directly with Indigenous suppliers to help them meet our qualifications, or provide them with training and business development support. Despite our commitment to working with Indigenous suppliers, challenging market conditions and a focus on cost containment led to a lower proportion of our total spending on Indigenous suppliers in 2015 at several of our operations. 

Community Investment Focused on Indigenous Peoples 

To support our relationships with Indigenous Peoples, Teck aims to improve the way in which we identify investment opportunities that benefit Indigenous Peoples at a local, regional and national scale. Although the total amount allocated each year for community investment is reflective of current fiscal realities at our operations, the percentage of total community investment that goes toward Indigenous-specific investments was 17% of the total Teck community investment spend in 2015 or $2.7 million. To support this work, Teck is moving towards a more strategic approach to community investment that aligns investments with opportunities identified in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples. 

Cultural Awareness Training

To enhance our capacity to engage with Indigenous communities, one of the goals in our sustainability strategy was to deliver training on Indigenous Peoples’ rights and cultural awareness for key exploration, operations and management staff. As such, in 2015, 11 Teck sites located within or adjacent to Indigenous traditional lands hosted cultural awareness training. In total, 300 Teck employees responsible for engaging with Indigenous Peoples or overseeing business activities that may affect Indigenous Peoples completed cultural awareness training in 2015. 


Ktunaxa and Teck Sign Historic Impact Management and Benefits Agreement

The Ktunaxa Nation Council and Teck have signed an agreement that will create long-term benefits for the Ktunaxa people and increased certainty around future sustainable mining development in British Columbia's Elk Valley. This historic agreement spans approximately 40 years and involves Teck’s five steelmaking coal operations in the region.

Outlook for Engagement with Indigenous Peoples

We will continue to engage with Indigenous Peoples early in our planning processes and work to achieve their free, prior and informed consent when proposing new or substantially modified projects as outlined in our Indigenous Peoples Policy. In 2016, we will focus on concluding negotiations on agreements with other Indigenous communities located near our operations while continuing to build long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous Peoples. 

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Teck is a diversified resource company committed to responsible mining and mineral development with business units focused on copper, zinc, steelmaking coal and energy.