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Officials return from Columbia, explore community development models

Published: November 9, 2016


Representatives from Red Lake were in South America last week, presenting lessons learned from over 90 years of mining and community development.

Mayor Phil Vinet and Chief Executive Officer Mark Vermette were part of a delegation to the northwest region of Columbia from Oct. 24 to Nov. 5 as part of the Sustainable and Inclusive Communities in Latin America (CISAL) initiative. The program is being run as a pilot for five years and is funded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

Mayor Vinet says the visit was the next step of the exchange program that has already seen the delegation travel to Peru as well as welcome municipal leaders and administrators from the partnership communities to the Red Lake district.

“They get exposure to how Canadian municipalities are run and operate,” said Vinet of the exchange countries upon returning to Canada this week. “One of the things that they have that we don’t is resource revenue sharing. What I learned from that is that certainly Columbia and Peru are well ahead of Ontario mining jurisdictions.”

The delegation spent time in Buritica, the home of Continental Gold’s flagship gold mine as well as visited Canasgordas and Santa Fe de Antioquia that sit on either side of the gold mining operation. Topics for discussion included social and economic development, environmental conditions and cultural diversity in the region.

Vinet says during the visit the group was told of scenarios where historically mining work was conducted by illegal miners, which resulted in loose environmental standards and negative social behaviours impacting positive community development.

“[The government’s] feel they have turned the page in that regard and are looking at some of the ways that Canadian municipalities exist with the mining world,” says Vinet. “Red Lake has been mining gold for about 90 years. We certainly gave them the Red Lake experience from probably the 1940s to date. We showed them the good, the bad and the indifferent. We didn’t cherry pick our situation. We spent a lot of time discussing the importance of coexisting with mining companies. Not all the experiences in Red Lake are positive.”

FCM says the goal of the program is to mobilize Canadian experts from resource communities to work with South American counterparts to find innovative solutions to building more sustainable and inclusive communities. The organization committed $20 million to the project and exchanges are carried out with no cost to participating municipalities.

(seen here) Mark Vermette and Phil Vinet join in with a public school band at Nicolas Gaveria school in Canasgordas, Columbia.

Submitted Photo

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