Saskatoon and Saskatchewan might sound more like mythical lands, but they are in fact real places, in Canada, and home to two-thirds of the world's recoverable potash reserves.
Potash is used primarily in fertilisers because it is rich in potassium.
In 2011, BHP relocated its Canadian headquarters from Vancouver to Saskatoon, the “Paris of the Prairies” in Saskatchewan and began work to develop the Jansen Potash Project.
Courage Bear is Cree (First Nation) and grew up on the Ochapowace First Nation, a rural reserve in southeast Saskatchewan with a registered population of about 1,500 people. He joined BHP in 2011, and today works in the community team, responsible for leading the Company’s engagement with the Indigenous people who comprise almost 17 per cent of Saskatchewan’s total population of over one million people.
“The potential Jansen mine will be around for at least 70 years so I don’t see us as just a business, but more like a long-term neighbour with all the surrounding communities in Saskatoon,” he said.
Courage's philosophy is simple.
“The trick is that there is no trick. It’s about being open, honest and not phony," he said.
“We have to build real and solid relationships from the start otherwise over time people will see through anything less than total honesty and transparency.”
As part of the Corporate Affairs team, his goal is to develop those relationships, build trust and keep people informed.
“In recent times, mining has shifted its attitude to a more inclusive approach and it is really on show here in what is a very diverse community," he said.
Like any good neighbour, he has respect for those around him and believes it is vital to keep people informed of changes that might impact them.
Courage had no mining experience when he joined BHP. He previously worked with a political lobbying organisation for First Nations in Saskatchewan.
There he specialised in sports, culture and recreational coordination and as a result brought a unique understanding of First Nations and strong connections with the broader community.
“I do a lot of coaching of softball and ice hockey outside of work and this is so important in letting people see who you really are.
“Both the company and the community need to be aligned in their purpose, because each can have an effect on the other in so many ways,” he said.
Given the opportunities the Jansen project offers the region's economy and employment, he said the job was a natural extension of his career and broader community role.
“Engagement revolves around respect and no matter what your background or heritage, people want to be treated fairly and honestly.