Social engagement - Impact and benefit agreements

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Author: Meghan Cartwright

The Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining

Queen's University

Created: March, 2009

This topic is part of a series of topics related to social engagement. Further information can be found on the main page for that topic.

Impact and benefit agreements (IBA)

What is an IBA?

An IBA (or impact and benefit agreement) is a bilateral agreement between the government (federal and/or provincial) and an aboriginal community. The government consults on behalf of the mining company involved, although today's trends show more direct involvement of the aboriginal people and industry directly. The main purpose of an IBA is: "To accommodate aboriginal interests by ensuring that benefits and opportunities flow to the community, and to address social risk factors within the community such as adverse socio-economic and biophysical effects of rapid resource development" (Fidler & Hitch, 2007).

The IBA Resource Network provides a list of known IBA's (2009). [#Return to Top]


IBA's were originally a negotiation between the government and the mining company. Although the government was technically negotiating on behalf of the aboriginal community, the majority of the agreement focused on local employment targets and required training (Sosa & Keenan, 2001). However, as the recognition of aboriginal right increased, more and more aboriginal communities began to become directly involved with agreement negotiation.

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Growth and Success

Over the years, IBAs have been able to provide the aboriginal people with the various growth and success they have been striving towards for generations. Options that are becoming more available to these communities are:

  • Environmental and cultural provisions;
  • Information sharing and planning tools;
  • Cross-cultural training & employment;
  • Revenue sharing;
  • Dispute resolution; and
  • Reclamation procedures. (Rae, 2008)

Further growth, as a result of IBAs, has now enables aboriginal communities to have more control over their resources and revenues. This has resulted in an increase in community responsibility and has given the aboriginal communities a chance to independently develop. Arising issues, such as fair benefit distribution, will only continue to challenge communities (Hodge, Stauch, & Taggart, 2007).

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Benefits of IBA's

There are many benefits to the implementation of impact and benefit agreements between aboriginal communities and mining companies. IBA's initiate an open discussion between the mining company and the aboriginal community. This communication link allows all concerns from both sides to be voiced about the potential project. Mitigating these concerns insures that the values of the aboriginal community will not be jeopardized by the project, and that benefits will be received by the community. IBA's assure that a formal agreement is set around these issues. It is necessary that a mining company cannot go back on their word, and that the aboriginal community feels secure with their part in the project. This actively involves the aboriginal community in the project, without exploitation.

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Unresolved issues and continuing challenges with IBA's

Many issues regarding IBA's remain questionable:

  • What happens if the mining company fails to comply with the negotiated terms of the IBA?
  • Once the mine closes, and the mining company leaves the area, what happens to the IBA?
  • What happens to an IBA if the current company gets bought out by another, or the property is sold?

Due to the fact that the answers of the questions above are greatly site specific, it is hard to produce guidelines for these. Very rarely does the life of a mine remain on the schedule predicted at the start of construction, therefore the conditions made at the beginning of the IBA agreement may not always stay relevant.

The shear lack of experience of IBAs remains a challenge. Improvement of IBA's can only continue through learning from past IBA's. There are limited opportunities for knowledge to be shared on the topic of IBA's. It is critical for those who have been involved with IBA agreements in the past to convey their experiences, good or bad. The knowledge gap of IBA participants is one of the main factors for unsuccessful negotiations.

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The future of IBA's

There are many improvements that can be made to IBA's in order to improve their validity and acceptance industry. Some of these characteristics have been the source of many discrepancies regarding IBA's in the past. In order to progress forward with aboriginal engagement, the following improvements must be made to IBA's in the future.

  • More transparency within the agreement
  • Continuous monitoring throughout the agreement
  • Include interests of the broader public
  • Include interests of adjacent aboriginal communities
  • Allow input from others indirectly involved:
    • General public
    • Stakeholders
    • Adjacent communities
  • Ability to learn from past IBAs (Fidler & Hitch, 2007)

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