Darrell Beaulieu, CEO of Denedeh Investments, will receive the 2016 Skookum Jim Award recognizing achievement by aboriginal-owned mining businesses.

The award, first awarded in 2008, is given annually by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada to an individual or a company that has made a significant contribution to the mining industry. 

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Denedeh Investments CEO Darrell Beaulieu is the winner of the 2016 Skookum Jim Award from PDAC. (PDAC)

"At first it was a bit of a pleasant surprise, and secondly I thought this is an excellent opportunity in terms of sharing with industry and government the stories of Dene and development over the last number of decades," Beaulieu told Lawrence Nayally, host of CBC N.W.T.'s Trail's End on Friday.

"It's really about Dene participation in the resource sector."

PDAC president Rod Thomas said the award is meant to mark Beaulieu's achievements over the course of his career.

"I believe he started off staking claims for the mining industry," said Thomas. 

"Thinking back, perhaps one of his first major achievements, which there are many, was when he was involved with the IBA [Impact Benefit Agreement] for Ekati diamonds."

Beaulieu got his start in the mining business at age 17, when he worked for Noranda Explorations Ltd., at a camp about 100 kilometres from Yellowknife. He ended up spending about seven months in the bush, surveying, staking claims and setting up camps all over the territory.

"I've worked from Hudson Bay to the Mackenzie Mountains," he said.

In 2005, Beaulieu became the CEO of Denedeh Investments. In 2013 he oversaw the creation of DEMCO, a wholly Dene-owned mining exploration company. DEMCO currently owns silver, gold and diamond properties.

Beaulieu said Dene have a long history in mining, dating back to the 1930s.

While the N.W.T. mining industry is struggling right now due to lower commodity prices, Beaulieu said now's the time for DEMCO to pick up exploration properties at a discount.

"If there is a project that's going to advance it's going to be the Dene and Northern people who are going to benefit first," he said.