Realizing Community Benefits and Supporting a Diverse Workforce (Potential Area of Focus)

Mining projects are large projects with a significant presence in communities and regions. Their lifecycle can span decades from pre-exploration to closure, and they cost hundreds of millions of dollars or more to build and operate. Often situated close to northern, remote, isolated and Indigenous communities, these projects can drive community development by bringing socio-economic benefits such as employment, training, procurement and business and infrastructure development.

Communities that host mineral development projects expect to share in the benefits, while having confidence that proper social and environmental protections are in place. Good community relations can help companies build public trust, which can facilitate project development and mitigate risks associated with cost and reputation, while helping them realize a return on investment.

Modern mining operations require a range of skills. Developing and mastering these skills positions people to pursue high quality, high paying jobs and business opportunities across the natural resource and other sectors.

Mining companies can face fierce competition for employees to work at their remote operations. In situations where there is shortage of workers in surrounding communities, companies may choose to employ “fly-in/fly-out” commuters. Given that mining operations often schedule employees for two weeks on, two weeks off (or similar timeframes), they may be challenged to attract fly-in/fly-out workers who do not wish to leave their families and resident communities.

In situations where these commuters are employed by remote operations, such workers are fed and housed by mining companies, and therefore do not fully contribute to local economic development. Yet these workers have full access to local services—including social services—which may apply pressures on those communities.Footnote 1

Research shows that Canadians across the country have a generally favourable impression of mining and believe that the industry is managed to higher standards of safety, environmental care and social responsibility. They also believe that mining is good for the economy and that it provides economic opportunities for remote communities and young Canadians.Footnote 2

Restor-Action Nunavik Fund

Many former mineral exploration sites located in northern Quebec were left in need of cleanup and reclamation. This situation created an opportunity to establish partnerships with regional stakeholders so the cleanup work could go ahead and, at the same time, it created employment opportunities for the local population. The Restor-Action Nunavik Fund was thus created through funding from the Government of Quebec and the financial contributions of participating mining companies.

This initiative, which also involves the Kativik Regional Government, was instrumental in the reclamation of several mine sites and in the creation of jobs in the local communities. The Fund contributes to community readiness by reinforcing the capacities of local populations.

The participation of local communities in the cleanup of abandoned mine sites also helps foster confidence among the community in the development of mineral resources. The Fund has become a reference point in the rehabilitation of abandoned mine sites in Canada and has inspired similar initiatives in other regions of Quebec and in other provinces.
 

Challenges

Achieving broad-based support for natural resources projects is a challenge. This is largely due to the sheer number of communities across Canada, the differences of opinion within communities, and the capacity of individual communities to participate in planning and regulatory processes. There are numerous stakeholders involved with decisions around mineral development who may have different interests.

Mining remains an industry that predominantly employs men, with women representing just 14% of the mining labour force.Footnote 3 Immigrants account for 13% of the mining workforce, compared to 25% of the total Canadian workforce.Footnote 4 Indigenous workers make up 5% of the mining labour force, compared to 3% in all industries.Footnote 5 Increasing Indigenous employment can support efforts to close socio-economic gaps and increase their participation in natural resource development.

Discussion questions

  • What can be done to ensure that benefits are realized for communities?
  • What can be done to build a skilled workforce that is more diverse?

Footnotes