Case story

  • Canada

Vale Inco Voisey Bay: Negotiation of Impacts and Benefits Agreement with Local Stakeholders

Case Story

In 1993, nickel was discovered near Voisey’s Bay on the north coast of Labrador, in an area of Canada that the indigenous population, the Innu and Inuit peoples, had traditionally considered as their territory. Indeed, at the time of the discovery these aboriginal groups were each engaged in negotiations with the federal and provincial governments; their objective in these proceedings was formal recognition of their claim to the land, in accordance with rights granted to aboriginal groups under the Canadian Constitution.

The proposed mining development project that followed the discovery brought together a diverse group of interested parties: Vale Inco, the Government of Canada, and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Innu Nation and the Labrador Inuit Association (LIA and now known as Nunatsiavut Government)[1]. Each of the parties sought to negotiate - based on their own particular needs and priorities - the terms and conditions that would govern how, or even if, a mining development would occur. Seeking to balance competing interests and create a process whereby it would be possible to collaboratively analyze Vale Inco’s proposed development, the federal and provincial governments, the Innu Nation, and LIA came to a joint decision. Under the federal and provincial environmental legislation they appointed an independent panel, and charged it with reviewing the proposed project and making recommendations regarding whether the project should proceed and if so what additional considerations should be taken into account.

Ultimately, the panel concluded that a sustainability -based approach to the mining development was the only one that the aboriginal groups and governments would find acceptable. Among the critical recommendations contained in the panel’s final report was one calling for negotiations between Vale Inco and the indigenous peoples - in order that the parties might reach agreement as to the specific economic benefits that would accrue to the Innu and Inuit communities over the course of mining operations, and to determine how they would co-manage environmental issues.

Upon successful negotiation of the issues, the commitments made by each party were set forth in two separate Impacts and Benefits Agreements (IBAs): one between Vale Inco and the LIA, the other between Vale Inco and the Innu Nation. A separate Environmental Management Agreement (EMA), between the two aboriginal groups, the Government of Canada, and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador was also reached on environmental issues.



1. Since the signing of the Inuit IBA, the Labrador Inuit have finalized their Land Claim which has resulted in the creation of Canada’s newest territory, known as Nunatsiavut. As an Inuit collective the LIA has been officially replaced by the Nunatsiavut Government, the term LIA is no longer in use.


Participant Perspectives

Isabella Pain & Theresa Hollet, Nunatsiavut Government

Date: 28th March 2011

Leading up to the negotiations on the Impact Benefit Agreement (IBA), were there any other aboriginal groups besides the representative bodies of the Inuit and Innu involved in the negotiations?

Even prior to the discovery of nickel ore in 1993, the area where the Voisey’s Bay mining project is located was claimed by both the Inuit and Innu as part of their traditional territory. In fact, the Labrador Inuit Association[2], as we were known then, had claimed the area as part of its Land Use and Occupancy Study, which it filed with the Government of Canada in 1977[3]. Because this claim had long ago been accepted[4], and since the project was to be in an area used extensively by the Inuit -- especially those from Nain and from other Inuit communities further to the south- it was therefore natural (and not surprising to anyone) that the Labrador Inuit Association would become involved in negotiations with Vale.

To read the full interview, click here.


Tom Paddon, General Manager of Vale Inco Newfoundland and Labrador

Date: 10th February 2010

Were there any other indigenous community organizations or groups, besides the representative bodies of the Innu and Inuit, involved in the IBA negotiations?

The negotiations between Vale Inco and representatives for the Innu and Inuit began in 1996 and culminated in 2002 when we signed the IBA agreements. They did not, for all practical purposes, involve any aboriginal groups other than the LIA and the Innu Nation – the main collective representative bodies of those peoples in the Labrador region with a claim to the area, as recognized by the federal and regional governments.

Now, this does not mean that no other parties put themselves forward, either to claim stakeholder status in the project or with the intent to become involved in the negotiations. Three groups, as I recall, did so: the Quebec Innu and the Quebec Inuit claimed to have at least potential rights to land in this area and, as a result, the right to have those rights considered in any development. The Labrador Métis Nation was a third group established before the nickel discovery and who said they had historically been in the area of the deposit and should so be considered. 

To read the full interview, click here.


Further Reading

For additional perspective on the Voisey's Bay negotiations, see Robert B. Gibson's article "Reaching agreement to proceed with the Voisey’s Bay nickel mine". 


Original Author(s)

Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative

Tom Paddon, General Manager of Vale Inco Newfoundland and Labrador Ltd.

Isabella Pain, Senior Negotiator, and Theresa Hollet, IBA Coordinator, Nunatsiavut Government