Integrating Human Health into Environmental Impact Assessment: Case Studies of Canada’s Northern Mining Resource Sector
Keywords: health, integration, environmental impact assessment, mining, Canada, North
AbstractThis paper examines the integration of human health considerations into environmental impact assessment (EIA) in the Canadian North. Emphasis is placed on the northern mining sector, where more land has been staked in the past decade than in the previous 50 years combined. Using information from interviews with northern EIA and health practitioners and reviews of selected project documents, we examined three principal mining case studies, northern Saskatchewan uranium mining operations, the Ekati diamond project, and the Voisey’s Bay mine/mill project, to determine whether and how health considerations in EIA have evolved and the current nature and scope of health integration. Results suggest that despite the recognized link between environment and health and the number of high-profile megaprojects in Canada’s North, human health, particularly social health, has not been given adequate treatment in northern EIA. Health considerations in EIA have typically been limited to physical health impacts triggered directly by project-induced environmental change, while social and other health determinants have been either not considered at all, or limited to those aspects of health and well-being that the project proponent directly controlled, namely employment opportunities and worker health and safety. In recent years, we have been seeing improvements in the scope of health in EIA to reflect a broader range of health determinants, including traditional land use and culture. However, there is still a need to adopt impact mitigation and enhancement measures that are sensitive to northern society, to monitor and follow up actual health impacts after project approval, and to ensure that mitigation and enhancement measures are effective.