Social Considerations in Mine Closure: Exploring Policy and Practice in Nunavik, Quebec
Keywords:Extractive industries, Community engagement, Multi-level governance, Mine closure, Northern Canada, Remediation
Northern Canada has a long history of poorly remediated and outright abandoned mines. These sites have caused long-term environmental hazards, socio-economic disruptions, and threats to Indigenous communities across the North. Given the potential legacy effects of improper mine closure, best practice guidelines now suggest that mine closures address not only environmental remediation, but also include robust plans for mitigating social and economic impacts, and that companies engage early and consistently with impacted communities. This research seeks to understand how social and economic planning and community engagement for closure are governed in Nunavik, Quebec. Through semi-structured interviews with government and industry actors and an analysis of regional and provincial mining policy, this research demonstrates that mine closure regulations remain vague when describing how companies should involve impacted communities in mine closure planning, and governments largely neglect to regulate the social aspects of mine closure. This article discusses why an overreliance on impact assessment and overconfidence in closure regulations are creating risks for Nunavimmiut. Without regulatory change, future closures may continue to result in unemployment, social dislocation, costly abandoned sites, and continued distrust in the industry.
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