Environment and Community
Environmental and social impact assessment ("ESIA") has become obligatory for major developments in Canada since the mid 1970s. Because of the constitutional division of powers, the federal, provincial and territorial governments each have their own assessment processes. Many modern treaties, including the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement ("JBNQA") and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement ("NEQA"), create special regimes of ESIA that provide explicitly for the protection of the treaty rights of the signatories and that grant the signatories a special role in the assessment process.
NML's projects are located in several environmental jurisdictions: Newfoundland and Labrador; Quebec; and the territories of the JBNQA and the NEQA, which poses special challenges.
NML is proactive with respect to ESIA. At the very earliest planning stages of each of its projects, it contacts the responsible authorities. It works with them to design its projects in ways that avoid or minimize their impacts. It also collaborates to ensure that the documents that it submits are to the highest standards and that the assessment processes operate as efficiently as possible.
In terms of avoiding impacts, the DSO Project has at least two notable aspects: the processing and related infrastructure was located in a "brown field" area that had already been affected by mining activity between the 1950s and the early 1980s; fish-free abandoned mines will be used to dispose of tailings and process water, thereby avoiding some of the major negative impacts often associated with mining.
Looking to the future, NML will continue to assess the environmental and social impacts of mining other direct-shipping ore deposits. It has also initiated a feasibility study of its LabMag and KéMag taconite deposits, which includes a major environmental component. In pursuing the preceding initiatives, NML will put into practice the lessons that it has learned to date, so as to ensure that it meets the highest possible environmental and social standards.
NML strives to have a net positive impact on the communities near its operations. Its preferred approach is to work with the individuals and communities in question to help enhance their ability 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.
Some of NML's achievements to date are:
a locally administered scholarship fund for secondary students at Pessamit, Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, Matimekush-Lac John, Kawawachikamach, Sheshatshit, Natuashish and the NunatuKavut Community Council communities. It rewards students on the basis of the improvement that they have made over the academic year rather than those achieving the highest grades;
an Elders' Committee was created for the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach and the Nation Innu Matimekush-Lac John. It has now been integrated into a Health, Safety and Environment Committee, on which Innu Takuaikan Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, Innu Nation and NunatuKavut Community Council also participate;
life-of-mine agreements have been concluded with five communities. As a general rule, they place an emphasis on employment, training and business opportunities and provide for financial compensation;
numerous grants have been given, especially for cultural and sporting activities. The attached report on an Aboriginal cultural exchange project on caribou and sacred sites, to which NML and TSMC have contributed, is one illustration of such grants.
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.
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.
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. The content of individual IBAs is usually confidential. As a general rule, however, they address the following topics: financial provisions; employment; contracting; training and education; environmental protection; workplace conditions; consent to the 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.
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).