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BACKGROUND

Notwithstanding an absence of legislation forcing their use, over the past two decades a number of Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBAs) have been established between mining firms and Aboriginal communities in support of some familiar projects across northern Canada. For example, IBAs were used to facilitate the development of the Northwest Territories’ three diamond mines (Ekati, Diavik and Snap Lake), as well as Inco’s Voisey’s Bay project in Labrador. Most simply put, these negotiated, private agreements serve to document in a contractual form the benefits that a local community can expect from the development of a local resource in exchange for its support and cooperation. Their specific content varies, but typically they include provisions on royalties and/or profit-sharing, employment, wider economic development opportunities, and enhanced protection of environmental and socio-cultural amenities. IBAs are novel and noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, they provide some assurances to, and tangible benefits for, local communities facing a major resource development such as a diamond mine in a way that conventional regulatory mechanisms like environmental impact assessment have never been able to provide. Second, they have largely been established without the explicit involvement of the state, the traditional sovereign authority in all matters of natural resource allocation and development.

Even with their increasing use and historical significance, IBAs have been the focus of limited attention in scholarship and the popular press; this is somewhat problematic given the many concerns and knowledge gaps that surround their use.

In partial response to these circumstances, the IBA research network was started in 2006 with a mandate to:

  • connect IBA-focused researchers/consultants, IBA signatories, and northern governmental/regulatory agencies;
  • identify and house all existing IBA-focussed research, both formal and informal;
  • identify IBA knowledge gaps; and
  • work cooperatively to address these knowledge gaps.
In addition to these aims, the website does its best to provide an up-to-date list of existing IBAs in Canada, and offers some IBA-relevant links and news items. For all three of these endeavours, your assistance is much appreciated.

Sincerely,

Ben Bradshaw and Courtney Fidler


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