PDAC recently published its social impact report entitled ‘Studying the social impacts of mineral development projects on indigenous communities.’ PDAC used literature review, a case study, and interviews to analyze the effects of mining on the social infrastructure of the host Indigenous communities.
Using a gendered lens, the study established a set of practical strategies for mineral resource development companies to exercise as a way to improve the situations often found in remote Indigenous communities, and use them to mitigate or manage the social impacts on host communities and women in particular.
According to PDAC’s report, starting a mining project with a gender-based analysis will help elucidate the roles of women, men, and gender diverse people in Indigenous society, and present a more complete understanding of the project’s social impacts.
The report should be viewed as a good reference point rather than a general overview as it is based on a case study and interviews that took place at Brucejack gold mine in northern B.C., on the traditional territory of the Skii km Lax Ha First Nation and the Tahltan First Nation.
Hence its conclusions should not be generalized to other Indigenous communities without first considering their unique culture, geography, history and socio-economic conditions.
Indigenous women often face social issues on site and experience limited opportunities and career development due to stereotypes.
According to a recent study by Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, high percentages of women have reported harassment, discrimination, assault, and abuse at camps in Yukon and northern B.C. Hyper-masculinity, ineffective prevention strategies, lack of trust in grievance reporting, and denial of the existence of these issues perpetuate an unsafe environment for women.
Indigenous women often have lower paying jobs, and rotational shift work is difficult for mothers who are primary caregivers. This can result in demotivation to enter the workforce and can reinforce gender imbalances.
Possible ways to counter these negative factors are support groups onsite, better procedures for responding to harassment complaints, more education and training for women to take on technical and managerial roles as well as community-based programs and family support. PDAC advocates that mining projects should support, not undermine, the human rights of Indigenous women.
Mining jobs can improve quality of living and community infrastructure.
Providing employment and business opportunities for Indigenous community members can increase their income and improve quality of living. However, locals with mining jobs often leave the community for better opportunities, so their incomes may not contribute to the local economy. PDAC’s report suggests that mining companies conduct socio-economic assessments and develop programs to encourage people to stay in their communities. Mining companies should also build camp housing facilities to mitigate housing issues.
The report suggests that mining companies should be actively involved in maintaining the road infrastructure and invest in its repair and construction. Also, due to regulatory requirements and environmental commitments, mining companies routinely monitor water quality for their operations. This can be expanded into the development of water management programs for nearby communities.
Mining companies can also help address the lack of technical literacy and internet access in remote communities, which limit community development and access to healthcare, education, and banking. PDAC’s report suggests that computers with internet access should be provided for families to stay connected during rotational shifts.
Education and training for Indigenous community members builds resilience in the community and strengthens the workforce for the mining industry. Companies can also facilitate career growth and opportunities for Indigenous employees to reach management and executive levels. Of course, Indigenous knowledge should be integrated into these programs.
You can read the full PDAC Social Impact Report here: https://issuu.com/pdac-web/docs/pdac-social-impact-study_2022?fr=sOGQ4NjQ3ODEyNjA