Tracking Aboriginal Community Health in light of Mine Development

Mineral exploration and development in Canada has generated substantial wealth for many, but also generated significant and often persistent environmental, social, and health problems, especially for Aboriginal communities proximate to mine sites. Though a legacy remains, of late the relationship between mining firms and Aboriginal communities in northern Canada has unquestionably changed. This rebalancing is evident in cases where Aboriginal communities have effectively used regulatory review to halt mine proposals and more numerous cases where communities have established Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBAs) with mining firms to further mitigate the impacts of a local mine development and ensure delivery of community benefits. Aboriginal community determinations to resist or accept, with or without conditions, a proposed local mine can be highly variable. A key part of their challenge, be they vehemently opposed to, merely wary of, or outwardly supportive of mining, is their lack of knowledge of the likely impacts of a mine, especially with respect to community health. For communities that are concerned about their health in the context of local mine development, especially where such developments are accompanied by IBAs whose primary purpose is to ensure net benefits, there is a growing desire to augment community health surveillance and practice adaptive management. This paper reports on efforts by the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach (Quebec), Eabametoong First Nation (Ontario), and the Inuit hamlet of Baker Lake (Nunavut) to develop a means of tracking community health over time using community-relevant indicators.
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