Social Impact Assessment Update

Posted by Stop Ajax Mine on June 29th, 2015 11:44am

Following the presentation on Social Impact Assessments (SIA) by Dr. Michael Mehta in April, the Stop Ajax Mine letter-writing team wrote to our MLAs, our MP, and Kamloops City councillors pointing out the urgent need for an SIA of the Ajax Project.

Here are the issues which were brought to the attention of our elected officials:

What is a Social Impact Assessment (SIA)?

*A process to assess or estimate – in advance – the social consequences likely to follow a particular project or policy

*provides direction to manage change, predict impacts, develop mitigation strategies, and implement monitoring programs

*thousands of SIAs have been conducted in Canada over the past two decades. They help build social license to operate, and increase project success if approved.

*Examples of SIAs - Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry ( Berger, 1977); Vancouver Winter Olympic and Winter Paralympic Games (2010), Downtown East Side Vancouver (Spring 2014);

*SIA has yet to be integrated sufficiently into the BC Environmental Assessment Process

What Could a SIA Include?

1. Historical background – initial settlement and subsequent shifts in population; changing land use; past community controversies; distribution of benefits/risks

2. Political and social resources – distribution of power/authority; friendship networks and social capital (networks of trust, association, and social support); residential stability; vulnerable groups

3. Culture, attitudes, and social-psychological conditions – attitudes toward project; trust in institutions; perceptions of risk; coping and adjustment capacity; quality of life

4. Population characteristics – demographics; labour market effects; future development; impact on other sectors; “shadow population” (fly-in, fly-out)

What is an Impact and Benefit Agreement?

*A legally binding contract outlining impacts, responsibilities, and creation of benefits to a local community

*As of 2012 there were 180 agreements between mining companies and communities in Canada and they include various kinds of provisions:
1. Environmental – planning/monitoring; reclamation; no more expansion/permits
2. Labour – preferential hiring; number of local employees; training
3. Financial – monetary compensation
4. Commercial – dispute resolution; enforcement in the event of breach of contract
5. Economic Development – preferential local contracting
6. Community – funding for youth; social programs; infrastructure including health, roads, electricity…

What needs to be done?

*At a minimum, the current process on Ajax is incomplete and a Social Impact Assessment must be conducted before this application moves forward.

*An Impact and Benefit Agreement with the community should be mandatory – it is not just for First Nations.

To date, few responses have been received. 

MLA Todd Stone replied in part:

Thanks for your email regarding the need for a Social Impact Assessment for the Ajax project.

The Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) manages the assessment of proposed major projects in British Columbia as required by the Environmental Assessment Act (Act). The EA for the Ajax Mine Project is being undertaken cooperatively with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), meaning that a provincial and federal EA process will occur simultaneously, and each level of government makes their own decision.  A project cannot proceed without both provincial and federal approvals.

The Act requires an assessment to consider the environmental, heritage, health, economic, social effects (known as the “five pillars” of provincial environmental assessments) that may occur from a project, and to identify means to avoid or mitigate the potential effects. 

In terms of the Ajax project, there are a number of social and economic topics that will be studied.  Specific topics to be assessed under the social pillar include: infrastructure, public facilities and services; dark sky; visual impact/aesthetic features; land and resource use.  Under the economic pillar, specific topics to be assessed include: economic growth; labour force, employment and training; income; business; property values; and economic diversification.  There is also a human health pillar that incorporates elements of the social and economic assessments.

 MP Cathy McLeod outlined the steps of the environmental assessment process and reassured us that the Health Impact Assessment was comprehensive, but did not address the Social Impact Assessment issue.

Councillor Arjun Singh talked to the Environmental Assessment Office in June and he says that a lot of items in a Social Impact Assessment seem to be already covered in the current Application Information Requirements, specifically the value components under the socio-economic sections. He has asked us what additional items we would like to have studied, and we have asked him to put forward the items listed above - historical background, political and social resources, culture, attitudes & social-psychological conditions, population characteristics, and an impact and benefit agreement.


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