Last update:
2020-10-20

Lower Churchill Falls Project Phase 1 (Muskrat Falls) in Labrador, Canada

Local Inuit people resisted the flooding by the 834 MW dam arguing it will contaminate the area with methylmercury. The company continued with the project and flooded the 41-sq-km reservoir.


Description:

In 2016, Nalcor Energy -- a Crown corporation of the Newfoundland and Labrador government, started to build a multi-billion-dollar hydroelectric dam at Muskrat Falls on the lower Churchill River in Labrador, Canada. The project is based about 30 km west of Happy Valley-Goose Bay [1]. Nalcor Energy said back then that the power generated by the Muskrat Falls project, which consists of two dams and a powerhouse, will help keep electricity rates stable for consumers in the long term [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lower Churchill Falls Project Phase 1 (Muskrat Falls) in Labrador, Canada
Country:Canada
State or province:Newfoundland and Labrador
Location of conflict:Muskrat Falls
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Water
Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Muskrat Falls Generating Station Reservoir impoundment was completed in 2019 with the flooding of 41 km2 of land to create the 101 km2 reservoir. Containment was completed by a two-part concrete dam totalling 757 metres long. This will power an 827 MW generating station -- the controversial project of Nalcor Energy at the expense of frontline, predominantly Indigenous communities, and their waters. These communities have relied on the Mistashipu River (Churchill River) for their culture, livelihoods, sustenance, economy, and more for millennia. The construction and operation of the Muskrat Falls Generating Station has disrupted the ability of Indigenous communities to practice their traditional pursuits and has caused cultural genocide.

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Project area:4,100
Level of Investment:10,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:8,000
Start of the conflict:01/10/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Nalcor Energy from Canada - Project developer
Hydro-Québec (HQ) from Canada
Relevant government actors:Labrador government (approved the project)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Inuit Nation https://www.itk.ca/about-canadian-inuit/
Nunatsiavut government https://www.nunatsiavut.com/
Labrador Land Protectors https://www.facebook.com/labradorlandprotectors/
Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, Inc. http://www.grandriverkeeperlabrador.ca/
Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition http://www.mfccc.ca/
North American Megadam Resistance Alliance http://northeastmegadamresistance.org/
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Inuit
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Refusal of compensation
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Potential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsMethylmercury
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Displacement, Displacement
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (undecided)
Repression
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:Because of the flooding of a huge area needed to produce energy, the Inuit protesters were demanding that Nalcor Energy completely clear out the trees, plants and soil in order to reduce the risks of methylmercury. Nalcor agreed to remove the trees, but not the soil. Finally, the flooding took place and covered a huge area with trees and vegetation on it.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite the huge effort of the local Inuitu people to halt the project and to make the company clear out all the trees, vegetation, and the soil before the flooding, this was not achieved. The mega project and its controversial flooding on a huge amount of the traditional land took place in the end including a huge amount of trees and vegetation (see the photos of the area flooded by Nalcor Energy).
Sources & Materials

Muskrat Falls Inquiry
[click to view]

Future Impacts of Hydroelectric Power Development on Methylmercury Exposures of Canadian Indigenous Communities
[click to view]

[3] THE MUSKRAT FALLS HYDRO DAM WILL HARM INUIT HEALTH AND VIOLATE INDIGENOUS AND HUMAN RIGHTS.
[click to view]

[1] CBC News: Battle over Muskrat Falls: What you need to know
[click to view]

[1] Quebec court rules for Newfoundland in Churchill Falls dispute with Hydro-Québec
[click to view]

[3] Make Muskrat Right Campaign: THE MUSKRAT FALLS HYDRO DAM WILL HARM INUIT HEALTH AND VIOLATE INDIGENOUS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
[click to view]

[5] The Telegram: Occupiers leave Muskrat Falls camp with doubts about deal
[click to view]

[4] CBC News: 'I don't regret one moment': Muskrat Falls protesters 2 years after their occupation
[click to view]

Human rights impacts of Canadian hydropower
[click to view]

[6] Countervortex, Innu Nation sues Hydro-Quebec

October 14, 2020
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Canadian hydropower is the equivalent of blood diamonds in Africa - video testimony by Marjorie Flowers
[click to view]

Youtube: Make Muskarts Right Campaign
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:ENVJUSTICE PROJECT ICTA-UAB (KH &JMA). Case reviewed and completed by the North American Megadam Resistance Alliance (NAMRA)
Last update20/10/2020
Comments
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