This International Women’s Day, the mineral exploration and mining industry in British Columbia celebrates Freda Campbell and Martha Manuel for their leadership in driving positive change for the industry and Indigenous communities.
Both of these women are champions for social justice and advocating for Indigenous rights while actively pursuing careers in one of the province’s key industries.
Freda Campbell is currently Community Relations Director at Skeena Resources, where she leads initiatives to bring sustainable economic growth to the northwestern part of the province and works with local Indigenous governments to build meaningful partnerships based on mutual respect and collaboration.
Martha Manuel meanwhile serves as the Director at Doré Copper Mining Corp., a dynamic new renewable energy project.
In January, both Martha and Freda took the stage at AME Roundup to share thier career milestones, projects they are working on, and their journeys to date. Both Freda and Martha are examples of women breaking down gender barriers and building capacity for future leaders in the mining and mineral exploration industry.
As women in a donimately male field, they serve as role models reinforcing allyship between genders as well as demonstrating to women and Indigenous youth that fulfilling careers and success are possible in the industry.
Freda Campbell is an inspiring example of a leader that has been building capacity for others in the mining industry for 25 years. She has spent her career advancing relationships between Indigenous people in Northern BC and those working in the mining industry, with nearly 15 years spent in the Tahltan Nation’s communities in the most active corner of the province for mineral exploration and mining projects.
Freda’s passion for empowering people and removing barriers to employment opportunities and development is limitless. Furthermore, she has been a champion for others in recognizing the potential that is often overlooked when evaluating land-based skills in relation to recruitment decisions.
Early and frequent engagement between Indigenous communities and corporations developing projects builds trust and communication necessary for project development: involving Nations through capacity building is absolutely critical to achieving this goal. This is something Freda has not only recognized but has been a champion for and an industry leader.
A particular success Freda points to is the Mentorship Program at the Eskay Creek Revitalization Project with the Tahltan Nation, launched in 2020 to provide university students and recent graduates in engineering and business an opportunity to work in planning, permitting, engineering and mine construction.
Initiatives like this, under Freda’s leadership, demonstrate how she is a champion for her community members, working to build capacity and strong relationships for those looking to grow in the industry.
Freda explains understanding, partnership, and respect for the land is paramount above all else.
As a Tahltan, I know all our land is important to us, some areas are more meaningful than others, but all of it is important. Resource development companies need to understand that importance and be willing to work with us to protect these areas and address our concerns in areas that we have agreed they can work on.
Martha Manuel – Leader in Secwepemculecw Territory
Martha Manuel is an inspiring figure and true trailblazer within the mining industry. She is a member of the Neskonlith Band, which is one of the 17 communities within the Secwepemculecw (Shuswap territory) in BC. Her education includes a Masters in Business Administration Indigenous Relations, First Nations Public Administration and Critical Incident Management.
Much of what Martha has learned about building effective community-government/industry relations was received from her late father, Grand Chief George Manuel (founder of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples) and her mentor the late John Jules of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc.
Martha has worked extensively to ensure Indigenous communities benefit from the companies operating on their land. For more than a decade, Martha was New Gold Inc.’s Manager of Indigenous Relations and prior to that, Martha focused on improving education, trades training, housing and healthcare initiatives for those living on the Secwepemculecw (Shuswap) territory.
With a commitment to being a lifelong learner, Martha furthered her skill set in 2021 by completing a Master of Business Administration. Martha’s lifetime efforts earned her the Women In Mining Canada’s Trailblazer Award for 2020. This incredible accomplishment serves as an example for all those looking to bring change sustainable change to mining practices in their traditional territory.
Martha explains, “My experience in mineral exploration has offered me the opportunity to influence and advance changes in government legislation for the benefit of our community. My work in the mining industry was grounded in a family history protecting rights and title to land.” Martha has spent most of her career meeting with Indigenous leaders and understanding the needs of each community.
By building connections and deep relationships with local leaders and industry professionals, Martha has liaised between both to create partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
Martha’s work has been paramount in educating those who work in government and the mining and mineral exploration industry about the priorities of Indigenous communities, the importance of protecting the land, and building capacity for future leaders. Martha has been a voice representing Indigenous people and helping the industry to understand why the land is so crucial to future generations.
Martha has spent a lot of time with Elders, youth, traditional knowledge keepers, and everyone within the communities to find out their background and knowledge on projects and then help them to understand project benefits and work together to address challenges.
Martha explains that working in a male-dominated environment can be intimidating, which is why it is important to find supportive women role models. She explains how she has worked to bring youth under her wing and that as she continues working with Indigenous communities, she strives for the development of sustainable initiatives that are aligned with their vision and values.
We are setting a precedence for future generations. Let’s continue to work together to maintain the foundation of respect & trust that has evolved into meaningful, productive relationships.
Celebrating Success and Looking to the Future
Freda Campbell and Martha Manuel are both inspirational figures within the mining and mineral exploration industry in British Columbia. They have worked tirelessly to bring positive change, promote social justice, advocate for Indigenous rights, and empower people from all backgrounds by removing barriers to employment opportunities.
Martha’s work has been paramount in educating those who work in government and the mining industry about the priorities of Indigenous communities while Freda is a champion for building capacity between corporations developing projects on their lands and Indigenous communities.
On this International Women’s Day, AME celebrates these two leaders who are creating pathways for Indigenous leadership and participation in mineral exploration and development.