THE CONTRIBUTION OF IMPACT AND BENEFIT AGREEMENTS TO THE REGULATION OF MINING PROJECTS: LESSONS FROM THE RAGLAN AGREEMENT IN NORTHERN QUEBEC
Since the early 1990s, the Canadian mining industry has been increasingly defined by the signing of Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBAs) between mining companies and Aboriginal peoples. While these agreements are intended to complement the legal system, they also serve to establish the legitimacy of mining projects and to encourage the harmonious integration of these projects into their social and environmental contexts. Beyond their practical implications, what are the effects of such agreements on the ability of Aboriginal communities to access the institutional space where the authorization of mining projects and the conditions of their implementation are decided? Can we view IBAs as a preliminary step towards the operationalization of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent? This paper aims to explore the potential of IBAs as a sustainable solution to the legitimacy issues that result from the implementation of the formal regulatory framework governing mining activities in this jurisdiction. We highlight what constraints and opportunities the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) engenders for local communities and draw attention to the ways in which the negotiation of the Raglan IBA and the environmental evaluation processes act upon each other. We find that certain structural problems - and problems of legitimacy – related to mining in Northern Quebec cannot be solved by the sole signature of an IBA, which suggests the need for caution when considering such agreements as a panacea. The Raglan case demonstrates that IBAs, like other modes of regulation relying on the direct interface between companies and communities, would benefit from a stricter framework and more explicit ties with official regulation channels.
Process; Processes; Quebec; Projects; Resources; mining; Impacts; Impact; Regulations;