QIA says it backed Baffinland in exchange for better Inuit benefits
“These regional benefits could be lost if the viability of the Mary River project is undermined”
When they backed a recent pitch to regulators from Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. for permission to raise its legal production limit at Mary River, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association did so only after winning a long list of concessions, the Inuit organization said last week.
“QIA pledged that it could only consider supporting the 2018 production increase application if there was a consistent drive towards directly improving the lives of Inuit as a result of the project,” the Inuit org said on Oct. 3 in a statement.
The association made that statement after the federal government—with support from QIA, the Hamlet of Pond Inlet and the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization—rejected the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s recommendation to deny the production increase.
In December 2017, Baffinland had requested permission to raise its current annual production cap from 4.2 million tonnes to six million tonnes.
They also wanted permission to build a new 380-person accommodation camp and a 15-million-litre tank farm at Milne Inlet.
The review board, this past Aug. 31, recommended Northern Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc say yes to the new infrastructure, but say no to the production increase request.
Only three weeks later, the QIA, the Hamlet of Pond Inlet and the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization sent a letter that urged LeBlanc to reject the review board’s recommendation.
That’s because “regional benefits would be lost” and the project itself would be threatened, were Ottawa to accept the review board’s advice.
“The recommendation to reject the 2018 Production Increase Application by NIRB creates unnecessary risks for the Mary River project while the project revenues remain sparse,” said their joint letter, dated Sept. 21.
And that means recently negotiated benefits for Inuit would also have been put at risk, the three organizations said.
“These regional benefits could be lost if the viability of the Mary River project is undermined by current project certificate terms and conditions limiting the annual production level,” they told LeBlanc.
To underscore that point, they gave LeBlanc a sneak peek at the numerous added benefits for Inuit contained in the amended Inuit impact and benefits agreement that QIA and Baffinland had just negotiated.
They told LeBlanc about a $10-million training centre in Pond Inlet, on which design and feasibility work is already underway, and a long list of training, employment and other benefits the company had agreed to.
QIA finally made that deal public on Oct. 3, the day it was signed in Iqaluit, following the organization’s annual general meeting.
In its Sept. 21 letter, QIA also said they’ve worked out an arrangement with Baffinland called the “project stabilization approach.”
Through that approach, Baffinland will do more to meet Inuit aspirations and to find ways of monitoring environmental problems like dust generated by additional haul trucks moving along the Milne Inlet tote road, QIA said.
And they said the extra vessels required to ship increased amounts of iron ore from Milne Inlet would not create significant environmental impacts.
“We also believe adequate monitoring and mitigation plans are in place to oversee these additional activities,” QIA said.
With files from Beth Brown.
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