Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
Communities in resource-rich regions are constantly surrounded by the “buzz” of resource extraction. What is often stressed in public discourse is that activities accompanying oil and gas, mining, forestry, and hydroelectricity projects will bring economic benefits. Increasingly, public attention is directed towards the accompanying environmental risks and social burdens. Both framings assume the project will go forward. But communities experience a range of impacts before construction begins, even when projects never become operational. Impacts might be material (employment, income, housing costs); discursive (public debates and private conversations about potential benefits and risks); experiential (psychosocial stresses, community tension, and solidarity work); temporal (the opportunity cost to municipal, provincial, and First Nations governments in responding to project proposals); and imaginative (individual, household, and community planning based on one industry to the exclusion of others). This paper reports on the social impacts of the pre-operational phase of a highly publicized liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plant and export terminal in northwestern British Columbia (Canada). The remote town of Kitimat has experienced resource booms and busts since the town was constructed to house workers for an aluminum smelter in the 1950s. Today, Kitimat has been experiencing the “buzz” of a prospective LNG industry for almost a decade. The C$40 billion LNG Canada terminal is expected to bring 7,500 jobs, C$94 million in taxes, and C$8 billion in goods and services, just in the construction phase alone. What impacts have emerged during the time between project proposal and construction and operations?