Given the fact that the NIRB has announced a reconsideration process for the Early Revenue Phase of the Mary River mine, and some of the terms and conditions of the Project Certificate may be modified, it is premature to finalize the assessment for the HRIA. Nonetheless, some preliminary recommendations may be formulated based on the observations to date.
All mining operations will have impacts on the environment and communities, which can be positive or negative, and which will have implications for human rights. The Mary River mine has extra challenges associated with its operations in the Arctic environment and interaction with Inuit communities. However, there are a number of factors that should contribute the development of the mine in a manner that respects human rights. These include:
• The strong framework for protection of Inuit rights in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, particularly the rigorous environmental and social review process conducted by the NIRB, as well as the requirement that Baffinland negotiates an Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement with the QIA.
• The preparation of a very detailed Final Environmental Impact Statement and the associated management plans and mitigation measures by Baffinland, including the Addendum for the proposed Early Revenue Phase, which include commitments for adaptive management, environmental protection, human resources, community investments and stakeholder engagement.
• The involvement of the federal and territorial governments, as well as the Designated Inuit Organizations, in the NIRB process and their on-going role in monitoring and enforcement of the terms and conditions in the Project Certificate.
• The strong policies and procedures of ArcelorMittal, including a Human Rights Policy, which should be implemented at the Mary River mine.
• The collaborative spirit of the interaction between Baffinland and the other parties to the NIRB process to date, which bodes well for constructive dialogue and proactive problem-solving for issues that will arise over the lifespan of the mine.
At this stage, the overall HRIA conclusions and recommendations are also meant to be constructive and forward-looking. They are based on international standards for human rights that are supported by the Government of Canada, mining companies and industry associations. They are meant to ensure that the Mary River mine respects human rights and is a positive example of the contribution of mining to sustainable development in the Arctic region. They highlight areas where existing commitments can be leveraged to ensure positive human rights outcomes.
1. Baffinland should initiate a human rights due diligence process based on the explicit recognition and implementation of ArcelorMittal’s Human Rights Policy. Baffinland should be commended for its commitment to develop further corporate social responsibility policies and procedures for the Mary River mine (e.g. based on ArcelorMittal’s policies and ISO26000 which includes human rights). This should entail having a more explicit human rights policy; including more attention to human rights issues in on-going environmental and social impact monitoring; as well as a focus on ensuring there are effective grievance mechanisms for workers and communities at the operational level.
2. All parties should continue their collaborative efforts to support on-going information and consultation with Inuit and other stakeholders. This is a fundamental aspect of respecting human rights and has been a key factor in the current positive assessment of the Mary River project. On-going consultation and stakeholder engagement is complex and efforts should be evaluated from time to time to ensure they are effective. The conditions in the Project Certificate related to consultation should be fully implemented, and every effort to use multimedia options such as community radio and the Internet should be encouraged.
3. All parties should continue their collaboration about capacity-building for Inuit. There are many potential opportunities for Inuit as individual employees, business partners, but these require an on-going commitment to formal and on-the-job training. Current efforts should be commended and supported for the lifespan of the mine. In addition, local municipalities, the territorial government and Designated Inuit Organizations will require additional capacity to effectively fulfill their roles in monitoring and addressing some of the predictable negative social impacts that mining operations can induce. It will be important to ensure that these front-line organizations have adequate financial and human resources.
4. All parties should support transparency about the economic benefits of the mine. The Mary River mine will generate billions of dollars in economic benefits through taxes, royalties, community investments and IIBA payments. Transparency for extractive industry payments is the new global standards, supported by the Government of Canada, mining companies and industry associations. Transparency will help ensure greater accountability and public understanding of the positive contributions that the mine can make to Nunavut and local communities.
5. The Nunavut Impact Review Board should encourage future mining projects to consider international human rights standards as they develop their management plans. Proactive engagement on human rights issues prior to operations is the best way to avoid negative impacts and to ensure that appropriate due diligence mechanisms are integrated into the overall management plans for a mine. Through its project review guidelines, the NIRB has a strategic opportunity to encourage mining companies to address human rights in a proactive manner.