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Inuit org completes first round of Mary River consultations

“There was a really good turnout, right from elders down to youth”

By STEVE DUCHARME

Baffinland's port facility at Milne Inlet. The Nunavut Impact Review Board requested last August that Baffinland Iron Mines submit an addendum to its current final environmental impact statement detailing proposed changes, impacts and mitigation efforts related to its Phase 2 proposal. (PHOTO COURTESY BAFFINLAND IRON MINES)


Baffinland’s port facility at Milne Inlet. The Nunavut Impact Review Board requested last August that Baffinland Iron Mines submit an addendum to its current final environmental impact statement detailing proposed changes, impacts and mitigation efforts related to its Phase 2 proposal. (PHOTO COURTESY BAFFINLAND IRON MINES)

Residents of communities affected by the proposed Phase II expansion of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River iron mine project got their first chance to say what they think about the proposal in a series of forums hosted by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association that concluded Nov. 16.

The QIA will use material from this community tour — the first of three — to help form its position at the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s upcoming environmental review of Baffinland’s proposed Phase II expansion.

“There was a really good turnout, right from elders down to youth that came to our open house and public meetings… there’s a lot of interest on the topic,” QIA President P.J. Akeeagok said.

Between Nov. 9 and Nov. 16, Akeeagok hosted a series of radio shows in the five affected communities — Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Hall Beach and Igloolik — to discuss the impact of expanded operations atthe Mary River iron mine.

Cathy Towtongie, the president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. also took part in those broadcasts.

The QIA also made presentations and conducted an open house in each community.

“It’s going to be very rich in terms of a position, because it’s coming directly from the people that will be impacted,” said Akeeagok on the material collected so far.

“There were powerful statements made in terms of their culture that might change, that will change actually, and there’s some that said, well, its 2015 and we all have to work at the end of the day … it was a surreal opportunity for me and everyone else.”

Inuit employment, among other issues, said Akeeagok, was frequently raised during the forums.

“Those are the true benefits that come out of any mine development, as much as royalties, it’s the employment opportunities that arise, and the contract opportunities,” he said.

Baffinland sent the Inuit organization revised reports on its current operations earlier in November— and, based on these reports, the QIA is now working towards developing a minimum Inuit employment figure.

“Right now, it’s at 20 per cent. How can we ensure with the [Mary River’s] scale going up three times more, including winter… that the Inuit truly benefit.”

In September, Baffinland temporarily cut wages at Mary River by 10 per cent, citing low demand for iron ore.

Material from the first leg of the QIA’s community tour will be condensed and distributed back to the communities during the second round of consultations, which has yet to be scheduled.

A third and final consultation with the affected communities will occur after that, with positions for a final report tol be drafted to supplement the Inuit association’s position during the NIRB review.

Under the Phase II plan, the Mary River mine would expand ore production from 4.2 million tonnes a year to 12 million tonnes a year and expand Milne Inlet’s shipping season from about four months a year to 10 months a year.

And overland ore hauling on the Milne Inlet tote road would increase to three times its current rate, from 22 trucks to 75.

Sea shipments would also expand into the winter season, which will require icebreakers, a second dock and a fleet of tug boats.

The QIA says the expanded operation will require a renegotiation of Baffinland’s Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreement with the QIA.

Each community’s respective QIA director and liaison officer will host the second and third radio and community tours.

Isuma TV recorded the first round of consultations and streamed the forums online.

This past Aug. 29, the NIRB recommended that Baffinland submit an “addendum” to its Final Environmental Impact Statement describing all aspects of its Phase II Development, with relevant baseline data, impact predictions, mitigation measures, monitoring plans and proposed community consultation.

“We’re expecting Baffinland to submit their full proposal to NIRB sometime late-March early-April,” said Akeeagok.

After that, the NIRB will likely organize a round of information sessions and technical workshops in affected communities, leading up to a public hearing.

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