Canada: Is Social Risk a Lurking Danger? Op-Ed by Fabian Olarte (F11)

The International Resource Journal

Canada has long been considered one of the safest and most secure mining jurisdictions in the world. Known for its political stability, limited social unrest and security problems, the perception of the country and its mining industry has traditionally been a positive one. However, could recent trends in social risk threaten the Canadian mining industry’s reputation of stability?

Currently Canada is the world’s top potash producer and boasts large reserves of base and precious metals.  However, over the last 10 years, as the Canadian economy and its currency have strengthened and the demand for its natural resources has grown, so have the social risks that come with it. For the first time since 2006-07 the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies does not have a Canadian territory or province as its number one ranked global mining investment jurisdiction. One of the reasons cited by the Institute for fall in the rankings was the debate around natural resource management. So, what exactly has changed?

Indigenous involvement has historically had a voice around mining projects at the local and provincial level and has focused primarily on improving social welfare and education. Traditionally, their influence in directing overall native land rights discussions and involvement in discussing policies around natural resource projects affecting their territories has been minimal. However, over the last year a collective grassroots movement has emerged, demanding increased community rights among various other social demands. The movement, entitled Idle No More, promotes structural changes in human rights legislation and economic development for communities. The movement has been largely promoted using social media and has become a rallying cry for social justice with a crossover appeal to non-native populations in Canada and the US, in a similar fashion to the Occupy Wall Street movements of 2011. The Canadian mining industry has become the group’s de-facto public enemy number one.

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