“Always use your voice for what you believe in,” says Korah DeWalt, Indigenous relations and community superintendent for New Gold’s New Afton Mine, a gold, copper and silver mine about 10 km west of Kamloops.
The 2011 Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) alum has followed this piece of advice throughout her career, influencing social change within her company and community.
DeWalt’s role involves a high degree of internal reflection and making sure the organization upholds its values. “It’s about asking: How are we good partners to the communities we operate in?” she says.
In other words, she makes sure the people, programs and processes at the mine meaningfully engage with the local communities of Kamloops and their partner the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc, which includes Tk’emlúps te Secwepémc and the Skeetchestn Indian Band.
From student to superintendent
Thanks to the encouragement of one of her professors, DeWalt pursued a summer internship with New Gold in 2010.
Eager to apply the lessons she learned during her BBA in human resources, she soon secured the position and absorbed everything she could from the opportunity. She returned for her final year with tangible experience that not only honed her HR skills, but also increased her interest in New Gold.
Today, she’s been with the company for over 10 years — a milestone that signifies her commitment to both company and community. Throughout this time, DeWalt has made several internal movements, allowing her to discover her passion and grow alongside the company.
After being exposed to the community portfolio while in HR, she was hooked. The community portfolio moved to the environment department following organizational restructuring and DeWalt stayed on for the transition, diving deeper into community relations and refining her role. Shortly after, she was provided with a professional development opportunity and became the First Nations co-ordinator at New Afton.
Now, as Indigenous relations and community superintendent, she has a unique and intimate view of the department’s growth, including its relationships with community groups. DeWalt has seen the growth of these relationships firsthand. A perfect example is the evolution of a 2008 Participation Agreement with Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc into a Co-operation Agreement — the latter being more collaborative and inclusive in nature.
The key to this growth? People. “About 80 per cent of our workforce comes from the local area,” says DeWalt. “It’s not only a question of what the mine is doing to be socially responsible, it truly matters to the employees themselves.”
She is no exception. As a member of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, she was born and raised in the area, giving her a unique drive to invest energy into her work.
Advocating for inclusivity
Her dedication to social responsibility and influence in the industry extends well beyond New Afton. DeWalt is also a director on the board of the BC Chamber of Commerce and sits on its equity, diversity and inclusion task force, something she’s passionate about.
As an advocate for females and Indigenous communities, DeWalt works hard to make sure everyone feels included.
“It’s not just about giving everyone a voice at the table, it’s also about acknowledging and listening to all those at the table,” she says.
These principles all play into one of her favourite projects thus far: launching the Beyond New Afton project. Beyond New Afton is an engagement initiative with community of interest groups to develop a social closure plan for when the current expected life of mine ends in 2030. New Gold’s ongoing exploration efforts at New Afton could potentially extend the life of mine beyond 2030.
The project has provided a platform for employees and community groups to voice their concerns and provide input into the planning process, helping New Gold minimize any negative impacts and develop social support programs that are designed by and for the communities they serve.
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