Canada’s Resilient North: The Impact of Mining on Aboriginal Communities



For decades, the mining sector has been a central economic driver in the Canadian North, and the discovery of large diamond deposits in the Northwest Territories has intensified the speed and scale of development. In the wake of rapid expansion, researchers and communities have scrambled to understand how individuals, families, culture, environment, livelihood, and health might be affected by this industrial environment. There is a need to understand the factors that contribute to positive and negative effects on individuals, families, and communities.

This paper reviews some of the effects that mining industries can have on well-being at the individual, family, and community levels in the Northwest Territories, Canada’s fastest growing economy. It does not cover the universe of impacts, but drills into a few effects in an effort to understand and build up a model of resilience, which helps to explain how impacts are distributed, experienced, and mediated. Resilience — the quality that helps communities respond to change and moderate impact — is an under-researched area of impact assessment. After describing the industry, we consider the question: what factors affect whether an individual or community experiences the impact from a mine? We call these “equity factors” and suggest they influence how an impact is distributed across a population.

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