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Community benefit agreements and impact assessment: Exploring methods and opportunities to improve natural resource development outcomes

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
This thesis focuses on analyzing and evaluating two integral policy mechanisms related to natural resource governance in Canada: community benefit agreements (CBAs) and impact assessment (IA). The purpose of this thesis is to address critical research needs concerning these two mechanisms that include exploring their role in natural resource governance, identifying their deficiencies, and identifying opportunities and methods that can contribute to improving natural resource development outcomes for affected parties. In Chapter 2, I conduct a systematic literature review and a thematic content analysis to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and role of CBAs. The results of the literature review and coding analysis help identify two overarching characterizations of CBAs present within the literature, 1) CBAs as instruments that reinforce and legitimize the status quo of natural resource governance and 2) CBAs as instruments that facilitate sustainable community development, as well as themes within these characterizations that provide more specificity as to the role of CBAs. In Chapter 3, I evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of alternative methods for assessing whether proposed projects are in the public interest. I propose a new evaluative framework, referred to as the "Public Interest Multiple Account Evaluation Framework," as a tool that can help inform decision making in IA. The framework is evaluated by IA experts using a survey, the results of which indicate that it has the potential to better inform public interest determinations in IA and overcome many of the limitations associated with the impact estimation methods that are currently used in IA. In Chapter 4, I conduct a case study to analyze the cost of a CBA for a project developer, focussing on the Mary River Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement. The findings of this case study indicate that the CBA has a relatively low cost compared to the mine's total cash costs and to a hypothetical cost of conflict. The research presented in this thesis represents a significant contribution to CBA and IA literature and has important practical implications that can help improve CBA and IA outcomes for Indigenous communities, project developers, senior levels of government, and society as a whole.
138 pages.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Markey, Sean
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