Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 268

268 Arctic Yearbook 2014 A way of managing the social effects from mining projects is to prepare a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) in which it is important to identify and analyse potential impacts of a proposed action or development on the human environment, and to recommend initiatives to realize both direct and indirect sustainable development opportunities as well as mitigate negative impacts. These demands reflect the need for situating the new projects within the existing societal conditions as well as staging the transformation of the society to be able to cope with the challenges. This also implies providing the workforce with services that are crucial for an integration of new industrial activities as alternatives to their separation through the building of ‘closed communities’ around the large-scale projects. At the same time, the explicated goals of the first three points demonstrate a rather instrumental approach to new business activities and the potential migrant workforce while the fourth point reflects a rather defensive approach with the wording of preserving and not specifying what has to be preserved and why. In contrast it is rather common in political debates and in cultural studies of changes in Greenland to emphasize the ability of the population to adapt to new situations and to change, so this fourth point should rather raise the political issues of influence and future choices. The Greenland government and minerals administration made a very crucial choice when delegating the obligation to produce the SIA and passing the responsibility for public consultations to the mining companies planning the activities. This has resulted in a focus on the single projects at the outset, and leaves it to the company to define the frame and outreach of the project in question. The assumption seems to be that these SIA’s can draw on an existing body of knowledge and expertise as well as an informed public and regulatory administration that is capable of maintaining standards and coping with the processes installed by copying the procedures and concepts from the field of environmental impact assessments (EIA). A study of SIAs demonstrates that leaving these to the companies have reduced the scope and reach of the resulting studies. Instead the focus must be on the process of preparation and development within the local communities, which basically follow a process approach to citizen involvement in planning and policy processes. The preservationist approach does not reflect the anticipated problems as demonstrated with the historic and contemporary examples. A more realistic approach might be to build scenarios for those transformations of the Greenlandic society that will follow with large-scale projects and ask how these can be moderated and how different groups in society can navigate in the rather conflict-based changes of the future. In particular the idea of accepting today’s starting point as ‘baseline conditions’ is problematic in that the society at large is already undergoing huge changes. What seems much more important is to open up for serious investigation of alternatives to the given project design as provided by the mining company and look into potential impacts as a core part of the planning process, while the contemporary focus on just one solution (‘take it or leave it’) reduces the relevance of the resulting SIAs. An obvious alternative is to identify large-scale projects as the meeting place between two different cultures (worlds of logics and everyday life practices) of the mineral exploitation and the local communities. A merger resulting in a transformation of the practices from both cultures (and value systems) as the result should be strived for, instead of a result where one of these cultures becomes hegemonic and marginalizes the other, making it become Hendriksen, Hoffmann & Jørgensen