Like other forms of development, mining brings benefits in the form of employment and business opportunities, especially to nearby communities. But it can also change the lives of those communities in ways that are not desired by some of their inhabitants, such as by influxes of large numbers of workers, often predominantly single men.
Just as NML tries to design its projects in ways that avoid impacts on the natural environment, so it strives to avoid negative impacts on the nearby communities and to enhance positive ones. For example, NML decided to locate the workers' camp for the DSO Project over 20 km away from Schefferville, Matimekush-Lac John and Kawawachikamach and to prohibit its employees from hunting and fishing. In the Sept-Îles area, NML will locate its storage and ship loading facilities in the Pointe-Noire area, well away from the residential areas of Uashat, Sept-Îles and Mani-Utenam.
Under the Canadian Constitution, Aboriginal persons enjoy rights, some relating to land- and resource-use, that go beyond those of non-Natives. Because of the northern ecology, Aboriginal groups exercise their rights over vast traditional territories, which make them particularly vulnerable to the impacts of mining and other forms of development.
Because of their history, Aboriginal groups and individuals sometimes lack the industry-specific education and training that would allow them to benefit fully from the employment and business opportunities offered by mining.
Where NML cannot avoid impacting nearby communities, it strives to compensate for those impacts. Its preferred approach is measures that will enhance the ability of the individuals and communities in question to become self-sustaining over the long term through a self-chosen balance of traditional and non-traditional activities. With that in mind, many of its initiatives are addressed at youths and at preserving and strengthening culture.
Single-industry towns are very vulnerable to the closing down of the only industry on which they depend (the “boom and bust” phenomenon). Schefferville suffered for over 30 years following the closing of the mines there, in 1982.
Aboriginal populations that have settled in single-industry towns located in their traditional lands are particularly vulnerable, since they usually have nowhere else to go. Those who have signed treaties may even lose their treaty rights if they move away.
One of NML's priorities is to reduce the likelihood that it will provoke or contribute to an economic bust in the Schefferville area:
- its exploration to date has revealed reserves of taconite that should support at least 60 years of mining. Continuing exploration is designed to identify reserves that will extend the life of the taconite mines to 100 years or more;
- it is continuing to confirm reserves of direct-shipping ore that will extend the life of the DSOP from its current 12 years to 15-20 years;
- the IBAs, as defined below, will provide the Aboriginal signatories with the skills and resources that they need to increase their self-sufficiency and to develop alternative economic strategies to accommodate their population growth and in the event of a downturn in markets for iron ore.
IMPACT AND BENEFIT AGREEMENTS (“IBAs”)
Impact and Benefit agreements (“IBAs”) are contracts between developers and First Nations that set out the terms under which the First Nations agree not to oppose a proposed project. With few exceptions, IBAs are not required by law, but it has become standard practice for the proponents of large natural-resource developments in Canada to sign them.
The fact that IBAs are usually signed only with First Nation communities reflects the special rights of First Nations under the Canadian Constitution.
IBAs are usually negotiated with First Nations that are likely to be affected by a given development and that have proven or unproven claims to the area that would be affected by the development in question.
The content of individual IBAs is usually confidential. As a general rule, however, they address the following topics:
- financial provisions;
- training and education;
- environmental protection;
- workplace conditions;
- consent to the project.
The essence of IBAs is that they provide certainty to the developer and benefits and clarity to the First Nations.
NML has concluded IBAs with the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach (June 2010) and Nation Innu Matimekush-Lac John (June 2011). TSMC has concluded IBAs with Innu Nation of Labrador (November 2011) and Innu Takuaikan Uashat mak Mani-Utenam (February 2012). It has also concluded a Collaboration Agreement with NunatuKavut Community Council (August 2013).
A brief description of the affected First Nation communities and certain non-native communities is provided in the following sections. These descriptions are based on the information available on their respective websites, where such exist, and or other sources. Website links are provided for further consultation.
In order to be as accurate as possible, the following community descriptions are based as much as possible on material prepared and published by the communities themselves. In every case, the community was asked to approve NML’s draft text. Some of them gave their approval, for which NML thanks them. Others did not respond. None of them withheld their approval.