Mining, First Nations, and Responsible Development in the Canadian North


Click here to visit the home page of the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach.

The Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach (the “Nation”) (originally known as the Naskapis de Schefferville Indian Band and later as the Naskapi Band of Quebec) is a First Nation with a population of approximately 850 registered Indians, who are also beneficiaries of the Northeastern Québec Agreement (“NEQA”). The majority reside in Kawawachikamach, Québec, located approximately 16 kilometres northeast of Schefferville. The village covers an area of approximately 40 acres and is situated on 16 square miles of Category IA-N land. There is ample room for expansion, whether for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes.


The traditional lands of the Naskapi Nation are located in northern Quebec and lie in a mineral-rich area north of the limit of commercial forestry. There is no potential for hydroelectric development in this area. The only possibility for a sustainable economy lies with mining. The Naskapi Nation is fearful that, if they are not able to develop economic opportunities in mining, their youth will be forced to leave their community to search for employment elsewhere. The consequence would be the rapid disappearance of a unique culture, forged in the environment of northern Quebec over a period of 400 years. The Iron Ore Company of Canada operated in this region in the town of Schefferville between 1954 and 1982. The Naskapi Nation was essentially excluded from any benefits associated with the operation of the Schefferville mine. Moreover, the mining activities during the operation created serious environmental damage, which was compounded by the lack of investment and information for mine site restoration and remediation.

The People

naskapi_kidsThe vast majority of the residents of Kawawachikamach are Naskapi. Naskapi is their principal language. It is spoken by all of them and written by many. English is their second language, although many younger persons also speak some French. The Naskapis still preserve many aspects of their traditional way of life and culture. Like many northern communities, the Naskapis rely on subsistence hunting, fishing, and trapping for a large part of their food supply and for many raw materials. Harvesting is at the heart of Naskapi spirituality.

The Location

Kawawachikamach is linked to Schefferville by a gravel-surfaced all-season road. Rail transportation is available on a weekly basis between Schefferville, Wabush and Labrador City, and Sept-Iles. The train is equipped to transport passengers and freight, including large vehicles, gasoline and fuel oil, and refrigerated goods. Schefferville, which has a 5 000-foot paved landing strip, is connected to points south by means of year-round, five-day-per-week service.

The Need for this Project

In order to move forward, the Naskapi Nation must forge relationships with potential mining partners. However, they currently lack knowledge of, or even access to, research and information, regarding the experiences of other northern communities and the evolving standards of corporate social responsibility. Further, they lack the tools and skills required to forge agreements (e.g. Impact and Benefit Agreements) that will ensure that development contributes to the long term well being of their community. Even where tools and other resources exist, they are often invisible or inaccessible. The Naskapi Nation’s plight illustrates the need:

  • for expanding dialogue and building connections between and among individuals and communities in the North;
  • for mobilizing the knowledge and experience of Northern communities among the communities themselves and with the companies whose resources are needed if sustainable economic development is to occur;
  • for access to tools and resources being developed by leaders in the private sector, NGO’s, governments, and academic researchers with the goal of setting and implementing standards designed to help ensure ethically grounded economic development; and
  • to facilitate communication that will allow actual and potential investors and northern First Nations and non Aboriginal communities to better understand each other with a view to accessing investment that will contribute to long term community well being.

About Author

Otto Faludi is the Communications and Online Program Coordinator at the Canadian Business Ethics Research Network. He publishes blogs on a wide range of topics including business and human rights; the ethics of resource extraction; governance, law, and public policy; and transnational crime and corruption. Otto is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the digital international affairs journal Freedom Observatory. He holds an Honours B.A. in Political Science and a Master of Public and International Affairs (M.P.I.A.) from York University’s bilingual Glendon College. He is fluent in English and Hungarian, proficient in French, and has a working knowledge of German and Spanish.

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