Full-service engineering contractor JDS Energy & Mining has developed a unique people-first approach to finding lasting solutions to industry challenges, founder and CEO Jeff Stibbard told The Northern Miner in a recent video interview. (Watch the video here).
Vancouver-based JDS specializes in providing turnkey solutions that take mining and construction projects from early conceptual visions to fully operational businesses. “Bring us your mining start-up and resource development challenges. We’ll take them on and deliver on time, on budget, and without harm,” Stibbard said.
What sets JDS apart from the competition is its commitment to inclusiveness as a trusted business partner of local Indigenous communities. The company “works with First Nations as direct equity participants at the initial stage, creating advocates rather than intervenors,” Stibbard explained.
From reconciliation to ‘reconcili-action’
While this approach can be “a tough sell” in cases where First Nations had previously been shut out of the energy or mineral business, JDS works tirelessly to turn these partnerships into what Stibbard calls “key strengths.” By introducing First Nations as vital players from the very beginning, and explaining the economic and social benefits of a mine before a project launches, “reconciliation becomes reconcilli-action.”
This inclusive approach took shape soon after the company’s founding when JDS was engaged by Sherwood Copper in 2006 to provide engineering, procurement and construction management services for the Minto Mine in the Yukon. JDS partnered with the Selkirk First Nations to provide essential services ranging from ferrying workers across the Yukon River to camp catering, while also providing mentorship and training in construction and business operations.
Less than six weeks after acquiring northern B.C.’s Silvertip Mine in 2013, JDS signed a life-of-mine Socio-Economic Participation Agreement with the Kaska, as well as agreements with local First Nations-owned companies to deliver camp catering, fuel supply and delivery, and freight and personnel expediting. JDS also used IKN, a First Nations business, for all earthworks, road maintenance and labour on site. Ultimately, First Nations accounted for more than 25 percent of the employment at the site.
JDS’s approach has become more pervasive over time, having spread to Victoria Gold’s Eagle Gold Project, where JDS managed US$500 million in construction, to Newmont’s Coffee Gold Project in the Central Yukon, where the Tr’ondek Hwech’in Nation is involved in equipment sales and revenue sharing, and to the 10-year Mount Nansen Remediation Project, where Yukon First Nations have consistently accounted for between 25 and 40% of JDS employees.
Time for Canada to catch up
Others in the Canadian mining industry must follow JDS’s lead in order for the country to regain its international leadership position, Stibbard said. “We’re dropping behind Australia in terms of the overall production of minerals, and investment coming into Canada is dropping. Canada is not doing enough to get the message out to show people that mining is good for Canada. There’s almost a pause or a stutter step at the political level because nobody wants to upset anybody.”
Canada cannot afford to fall behind in resource development, Stibbard said, “particularly when the market requirements are growing, and particularly when there’s still no better place to mine responsibly for the environment and for the health, safety and socio-economic participation of First Nations. We’ve got to get that message out to our national and provincial leaders, and be proud of it.”
Stibbard has built the company to encompass 10 business units spanning from mine engineering, construction and operations to logistics and investing in new technologies such as renewable energy.
“If we can develop creative ways to reduce fuel usage, energy usage or any way to switch away from carbon fuel, we can save our clients money, improve their carbon footprints, and enhance their ESG status at the highest level,” said Stibbard.
To this end, JDS has invested heavily in Enlighten Innovations, a Calgary-based company that develops proprietary sodium superionic conductors (NaSICONs) for use in long-discharge flow batteries that could have myriad mining applications. NaSICONs’ levelized costs of energy and storage are 48 to 55 percent lower than lithium-ion solutions.
“We’re going to be able to do great things moving forward, particularly with global electrification and the tripling of the demand for copper and nickel in the automotive industry,” Stibbard said. “We’ve got the capability of doing it, we just need to start harnessing the hearts and minds of the rest of Canada to help us get there.”