AREVA’s Socioeconomic Impact Statement inadequate, confusing, contradictory says Makita - PART 1
Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit has published a summary of AREVA’s Socioeconomic Impact Statement. This section, which is part of AREVA’s Environmental Impact Statement (to be presented to the Nunavut Impact Review Board) concerning their proposed Kiggavik uranium mine near Baker Lake, is over 500 pages long. None of it has been translated into Inuktitut, despite the fact that the EIS is a public document that is created in order to inform BOTH the NIRB and local Inuit residents about the various impacts of the mining project. Makita has been critical about this point. Not only is it a very lengthy and technical document (not accessible to the everyday individual), but the fact that is it not in Inuktitut denies the rights of citizens to access information in their own language. Makita argues that the document is not as accessible as AREVA claims. This is why they made this summary, in order to “help Nunavummiut better understand the report, ask questions, and determine whether the conclusions AREVA comes to about the impact of the proposed mine make sense to them.”
They criticize specific sections of the Socioeconomic Impact Statement claiming that, as a whole, the document is vague, confusing and contradictory in its statements and projections. ARIVA’s report is separated in two sections: the first part is the baseline study, where they explain the socioeconomic conditions of the Kivalliq region (Arviat, Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet, Coral Harbour, Ranking Inlet, Repulse Bay, Whale Cove). This includes reports on health, crime and suicide rates, income, age, employment, gender, etc. The second part is the actual impact statement, where AREVA predicts how some of the issues mentioned in the first part will be impacted by the Kiggavik mine.
Makita argues that AREVA’s baseline report lacks detail, presenting information that does not seem to be academically or scientifically rigorous. They provide very little details on how they actually conducted their research or came up with their results. They say they interviewed people through 90 events (focus groups, meetings, interviews) but they don’t mention who was interviewed, or where and when these events took place. They also often quote people, which they call a “statement” (they have over 1,600 “statements”). But these statements are very vague. They don’t use quotation marks, so it is impossible to know if they are actual quotes, or if they have been summarized by AREVA. As Makita says, “readers have no way of knowing whether the quotes AREVA uses to support its conclusions are representative of how Kivallirmiut feel about the Kiggavik proposal, or how AREVA made sense of the range of comments and opinions people might have shared with them through the process.” One also doesn’t know if the statement referred to is complete, or partial. We also don’t know how many statements can be attributed to one specific person. This is shocking and very misleading. AREVA uses these “statements” as proof that the majority of Kivallirmiut are supportive of the mining project, yet they don’t back up their evidence in any way. How can anyone be sure that all these statements are true, valid or accurate? Why should we believe them? This lack of methodology and proof would not stand in an academic or research-based field of any kind, so why should it be accepted in this case? This is a research project after all.
To make matters even more confusing, they offer contradictory comments. In a section discussing the effects of the Meadowbank mine on Baker Lake, all the “statements” talk about positive aspects of the mine (people happy to be making more money, less stressed about paying bills, good to see more people employed, etc.). Later in the document however, AREVA mentions that people have talked about their concerns over issues like racism at the mine, problems with rotational work shifts, reports of sexual assault, issues over language, increased drug and alcohol related problems, and a sense that the work is degrading. Despite these obviously contradictory statements AREVA claims that, “comments from the interviews and focus group discussions about the effects of Meadowbank on Baker Lake were virtually all positive.” As Makita says, this is very confusing. If these “statements” were backed up with actual evidence and information about who said what, it would be possible to compare the positive comments with the negative ones. But we cannot because there is no evidence. Instead, we just have to take AREVA’s word that the positive comments greatly outweigh the negative ones. This is not acceptable in an academic/research environment.
If AREVA wants its Socioeconomic Impact Statement to be taken seriously as an objective, detailed and unbiased report then they MUST apply the kind of rigor to their methodology that is expected from a research project of this magnitude.