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Community Experiences of Mining in Baker Lake, Nunavut

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Title: Community Experiences of Mining in Baker Lake, Nunavut
Author: Peterson, Kelsey C. R.
Department: Department of Geography
Program: Geography
Advisor: Bradshaw, Benjamin
Abstract: With recent increases in mineral prices, the Canadian Arctic has experienced a dramatic upswing in mining development and exploration. The communities living in close proximity to proposed mining are poised to experience dramatic change in the face of industrial development and an injection of wage employment. With the development of the Meadowbank gold mine, the nearby Hamlet of Baker Lake, Nunavut is currently experiencing these changes firsthand. In response to an invitation from the Hamlet of Baker Lake, this research seeks to document Baker Lake residents’ experiences with the Meadowbank mine. During two months of fieldwork in 2010 and 2011, these experiences - manifest in stories, opinions and concerns - were recorded. It is evident that the community has changed with the opening of the mine. The employment rates and income have increased, and there have been resulting decreases in food insecurity, increases in hunting participation and increased hope for the future of Baker Lake. However, these outcomes are not felt homogeneously across the community; indeed, residents’ experiences with mining have been mixed. Beyond this core finding, the research suggests four further notable insights. First, employment has provided the opportunity for people to elevate themselves out of welfare/social assistance, provide for their families and pay down debts. Second, the pursuit of high school and post-secondary education has become more common, but some students are leaving high school to pursue mine work. Third, local businesses are benefiting from mining contracts, but this is generally limited to those companies that had the capital and equipment in place before the mine; economic diversification and the development of small business have been minimal. Finally, varied individual experiences are in part generated by an individual’s context; that is, the experience of the mine is conditioned by personal context (finances, education, family, personal history) and personal choices (e.g. alcohol vs. debt repayment, unskilled mine employment vs. education/training). The documentation of these experiences is useful not just for our understating of mining’s impacts on Aboriginal communities, but also for the efforts of the Hamlet of Baker Lake and higher government authorities to develop mitigation measures including niche programs.
Date: 2012-04
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