Resource development in the form of oil and gas extraction and mining has the potential to considerably change the lives of people in northern and Indigenous communities.
Exploration activity, drilling for oil, and mining have taken place for decades in the Canadian North as well as in other Indigenous communities, and an important number of major projects have been developed or proposed in recent years.
As large resource development projects move forward, leaders of northern (often Indigenous) communities may regard resource development as key for achieving their communities’ socio-economic development goals.
Increasingly, Indigenous communities are negotiating agreements directly with industry to ensure that local people benefit from resource development.
Environmental agreements negotiated between Indigenous people, governments, and industry can be seen as providing a means to ensure that Indigenous people participate in the environmental management of projects that can affect them.
Impact Benefit Agreements (IBAs) typically contain specific provisions for Indigenous training, employment and contracting opportunities, with companies making commitments in regards to maximizing employment and business opportunities for Indigenous people and typically providing funding to support workforce training activities.
In the context of environmental impact assessment (and, often, as an outcome of the negotiations of IBAs), provisions exist in the form of mitigation measures in order to minimize the effects of development activities on wildlife, fish, and so on, and – by extension – on traditional activities.
Impact Benefit Agreement implementation requires ongoing consultation between mining companies and representatives of indigenous organizations (often, specifically with the indigenous organization’s environment, economic development and/or human resource development departments).
A committee to monitor the fulfillment of commitments made in IBAs will typically be formed to drive forward the implementation; such committees involve representatives from the Indigenous community, the company, and various levels of government.
In some jurisdictions, where required under the terms of the IBA, ongoing consultation with relevant government agencies may be required – for example, in relation to progress made towards achieving specific targets as reported in quarterly, semi-annual, or annual reports.
Impact Benefit Agreement commitments
IBAs contain significant commitments and obligations regarding benefits to Aboriginal communities, and are generally negotiated when projects are ready to move to a development phase.
During exploration, agreements between companies and Indigenous communities tend to include fewer obligations than is typically the case in IBAs.
Typical company-community commitments made in IBAs include provisions for:
- priority in project-related hiring for Indigenous persons;
- development (training) of Indigenous workforce;
- preferential contracting of local/Indigenous firms;
- Aboriginal project employment targets (e.g., as percentage of total project workforce);
- investment in research and development; and
- measures to protect and minimize adverse project effects on wildlife.
Participation in Impact Benefit Agreement implementation
The implementation of IBAs requires the dedicated attention from socio-economic and community relations personnel of companies as well as their counterparts in Indigenous organizations responsible for areas such as economic development and workforce training.
In addition, committees and/or working groups comprising Indigenous community members may be formed to monitor the implementation of commitments made in the IBA, review detailed data relating to economic benefits accrued to the Indigenous community (including, e.g., contracts awarded to Indigenous-owned firms, Indigenous participation in training programs), and to provide recommendations regarding successful implementation.
While participation in IBA negotiations as well as in implementation often involve a relatively limited number of persons, monitoring reports and other information are shared with government and the affected communities.
A key aspect of IBA implementation is commitments follow-up and the extent to which these are fulfilled by the dates specified in the agreements; this is a crucial element for companies achieving success in gaining and maintaining trust and support of members of the affected Indigenous communities.
Image: Steven Petty under Creative Commons 2.0
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