Nunavut Inuit org proposes Mary River compensation fund for hunters
Wildlife compensation fund, worth $750,000, available to five communities
Hunters facing hardship in regions affected by Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River iron mining operation will soon have a new avenue for pursuing compensation.
That’s thanks to a resolution passed by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association at its annual general meeting in Iqaluit Oct. 7.
As part of its Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement with Baffinland, the mining company has paid the QIA $750,000. The QIA wants to use this money to compensate hunters in communities directly impacted by the Mary River mine — Hall Beach, Igloolik, Arctic Bay, Clyde River and Pond Inlet.
The QIA wants more consultation with the regional wildlife board and hunters and trappers organizations before claims are processed.
But North Baffin hunters will be able to use the wildlife compensation fund as a small-claims alternative to seeking compensation through the bureaucratic Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal.
“This compensation is meant to be an additional remedy to the Article 6 Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal process that exists in the land claim [NLCA],” the QIA’s assistant director of major projects, Justin Buller, said in a presentation to QIA board members.
“What we’re proposing is that anyone who wishes to go out on the land is going to have to purchase certain items to do so, in doing that we can reduce to cost of those items and make it easier for hunters to keep harvesting.”
The fund will not provide compensation for things that are already subsidized, such as food and gas.
Buller explained to the board that the Mary River iron mine, whose environmental impacts are still uncertain, might require hunters to be out on the land for longer periods of time and to use more resources for their harvesting activities.
“We’ve been hearing from the communities that impacts are starting to be felt, and we heard today that there’s already claims that are coming into QIA regarding this, but we need that framework and the template in terms of exactly what the board just approved today,” QIA President PJ Akeeagok said.
The QIA motion does not address any major events impacting wildlife that could take place down the road because of the Mary River mine, such as migration changes or depleted populations.
Nor does it address more serious issues which could arise if Mary River’s Phase II plan is approved by Nunavut’s review board.
Baffinland is asking the Nunavut Impact Review Board to approve the expansion of its operation on North Baffin to allow the mine to remain profitable as the value of iron ore continues to sink in global markets.
As a result, the region will see increased traffic on the 100-kilometre tote road for iron ore and sea-shipments which will operate 10 months a year, requiring icebreakers in the winter and endangering ice migration for certain species.
The QIA has already stated it will pursue a re-negotiation of the IIBA agreement with Baffinland if Phase II is approved.
Consequently, the wildlife compensation fund may take a dramatically different form in the near future.
“The resolution now is to deal with the $750,000 that we have,” said Buller.
Under Article 6 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, beneficiaries who believe their hunting rights have been impacted, can seek compensation through the surface rights tribunal.