Publication: Global Business Reports
Issue: February 2015
Issue Title: Circumpolar Mining 2015
All stakeholders involved in northern mineral development have a role to play in positively advancing an industry that represents an opportunity for socio-economic development. Mining has the potential to bring self-sufficiency to the North; empower people with education, training, and employment; increase territorial revenues; and support infrastructure development. In the author’s experience as an environmental assessment (EA) practitioner working on resource projects across Canada`s north, elders have consistently stressed that their youth need the opportunities of a modern economy to be productive and raise healthy families. It is imperative that we explore how stakeholders can work together to support responsible northern development that values traditions and the environment.
Northern mineral development has over a 100-year heritage, with a handful of environmental legacies. However, it is mining`s dirty history that has transformed it into a leader in environmental stewardship today. Regulatory regimes in the North are less than two decades old, involving made-in-the-north land use planning and EA processes that emphasize the integration of local knowledge and perspectives. Successful projects demonstrate sensitivity to northern concerns and maximize the involvement of, and support and benefit for local people.
Circumpolar regions are underexplored and present “low hanging fruit” for explorers, as they prospect with bedrock close to the ground surface. However, the remoteness from southern markets and populations, a lack of transportation infrastructure, short seasonal windows, and extreme cold make these regions expensive to explore and develop. Other challenges include typically scarce, pre-existing environmental baseline information, potential wealth of traditional knowledge to collect and consider, and communities that have limited experience with mining.
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