Developing Our Past, Present, and Future: Understanding the Relationship Between Mining and Inuit Well-Being in Nunatsiavut

Pike, Matthew
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University of Guelph

Across the Circumpolar North, Inuit have complex relationships with mining. In Inuit Nunangat, mining contributes significantly to the economy. In Nunatsiavut, Canada, the Voisey’s Bay mine (the region’s only mine) employs 6% of the Inuit population. Despite this, there is little research about past, present, and potential future impacts of mining on Inuit well-being or the relationship between mining and Inuit well-being. In collaboration with Inuit, this Inuit-led research sought to understand the impacts of mining on Inuit well-being from the perspectives of Inuit employees in Voisey’s Bay and their family members. First, to understand the national context, a literature review identified published research on the relationship between natural resource development and Inuit well-being. Then newspaper articles were reviewed to investigate how the media reported on the mining industry’s initial response to COVID-19 in Inuit Nunangat. Then, to understand the perspectives of Inuit employees and their family members on current and future well-being impacts of Voisey’s Bay, data were collected through 16 in-depth interviews conducted between 2021–2022 and were thematically analyzed. Results validation sessions were held with four participants and eight key Nunatsiavut Government officials in 2022 to ensure accuracy and authenticity. Results indicated the ii importance of protecting and enhancing Inuit well-being and the responsibility the mining industry holds in doing so. Inuit described a desire to live in their home community, as there is a deep sense of community, a strong connection to family, and a strong connection to the land and culture, which is vital for Inuit well-being. Employment in Voisey’s Bay has enabled some Inuit to remain in their home community. However, due to key social determinants of health (e.g., low housing availability and inadequate access to healthcare), some Inuit are utilizing the fly-in/fly-out nature of Voisey’s Bay to leave Nunatsiavut. Results also indicated the importance of long-term planning and economic diversification to avoid “boom and bust” scenarios in Nunatsiavut in protecting Inuit well-being. Given these research results, this dissertation is a call to action to ensure mining activities are conducted in a way that protects and enhances the well-being of Inuit and Indigenous Peoples.

Inuit, Inuit Nunangat, Nunatsiavut, Indigenous, health, well-being, mining, resource extraction, FIFO, COVID-19, circumpolar