A new joint venture partnership signed in Smithers between UTM Exploration and the Office of the Wet'suwet'en highlights the importance of gaining social licence when doing business in Northwest B.C.
"I think this agreement definitely builds on the concept of social licence," David de Wit, Office of the Wet'suwet'en natural resources manager, said.
"But within our relationship, it's going to be more about implementing that social licence. We both bring unique skills to the table and we think we can make a difference in the industry ... I think the Wet'suwet'en are turning a new page in our history and finding ways to work collaboratively with the community."
Social licence, by definition, is the need to gain acceptance and operational approval from communities and stakeholders by companies.
Any mineral exploration opportunities proposed for Wet'suwet'en territory must earn a social licence to ensure the project meets First Nations' environmental and employment expectations.
“The opportunities we will be pursuing are ones that our clan members have approved,” de Wit said.
“It creates a sense of certainty for industry and we see this relationship as a very innovative way to seize opportunities for our members and to ensure that we can make a difference as far as environmental stewardship goes ... we’re optimistic we can make a difference on the ground right away with this unique relationship. Some of the goals and aspirations we have had in terms of land stewardship can now not be just a concept, they can be implemented on the ground.”
The partnership has been in the works for the last two years, said UTM Exploration owner and CEO Anastasia Ledwon.
“One of our mandates is to lead by example.” Ledwon said.
“We live here and we live with everyone here. Clients can be assured that when working with the joint venture, important ideals around lifestyle, community, environment and reclamation are being met because the Wet’suwet’en are involved with the work as employees or as representatives on the project. Clients can be assured that the work is being done appropriately because we’re all working together.”