Mining and community health

A local project recently received almost half a million dollars in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

A local project recently received almost half a million dollars in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The funding is to continue the project’s work of tracking and monitoring the impacts of the Mount Milligan mine on community health and well-being in Fort St. James, Nak’azdli, and Tl’azt’en.

It’s a project unique in the mining world, and it’s garnering a lot of attention.

Together, community health and social service providers and the research team, Dr. Janis Shandro (University of Victoria/University of British Columbia), Dr. Aleck Ostry (University of Victoria) and Dr. Malcolm Scoble (University of British Columbia) are working to enhance understanding of the health impacts and health opportunities mining and extractive industry development can hold for communities with a strong focus on culturally appropriate Social Determinants of Health.

In 2012 the team completed a community health base-line assessment, and are now monitoring community health and sustainability conditions through the opening phases of the mine.

The work is guided by the Stuart Lake/Nak’al Bun Research Advisory Board, which provides oversight to this project and seeks to ensure that other health and sustainability research occurring in the region brings positive health benefits.

This work was launched by a Community-based Health Research Grant from the Vancouver Foundation and an Aboriginal Health Priority Grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

What’s unique about the project is that, as far as the project team is aware, this is the first time the health impacts of a mine on communities have been tracked across a mine-life cycle.

It is also unique in that the communities initiated this initiative with the intention to “be ten steps ahead”.

Kandace Kerr and Anne Marie Sam, the two project research associates, recently made a presentation about the project at the World Mining Congress in Montreal that was attended by 2,500 global mining industry representatives.

Members of the project team will be in Fort St. James over the next week and a half interviewing local health and social service providers about the changes they have seen since the baseline was completed.

The public will have an opportunity to share their observations and learn more about the project at an open house at the Fort St. James Public Library on Tuesday Sept. 17 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.