Arctic Bay supports Baffinland expansion as NIRB hearing resumes

Public hearing over the Mary River mine expansion resumes in Iqaluit

The Hamlet of Arctic Bay issued an open letter in support of Baffinland’s proposed expansion of Mary River mine, shown here, ahead of hearings this week. (File photo)

By David Lochead

The Hamlet of Arctic Bay has sent a letter of support for Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed expansion of the company’s Mary River iron mine.

The letter of support came last week, just three days before Monday’s resumption of a Nunavut Impact Review Board’s hearing on the proposal. The letter states a motion of approval has been directly sent to the board, which will make a recommendation to the federal minister of northern affairs.

Baffinland is looking to double production at the Mary River mine, located on north Baffin Island, to 12 million tonnes of iron ore per year. The expansion would include construction of a 110-kilometre railway between the mine site and Milne Inlet, as well as another dock.

Arctic Bay is approximately 280 kilometres from Mary River mine. In February, hunters from Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet blockaded access to the Mary River to protest the proposed expansion. They expressed concerns the expansion will negatively affect the environment, including their ability to harvest wildlife that live in the area.

As well, Arctic Bay was one of the Baffin communities to sign a letter last summer stating displeasure with a multi-million-dollar agreement, called the Inuit Certainty Agreement, that lays out local oversight of the expansion. Other signatories on the letter included leaders from Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Sanirajak and Clyde River.

Arctic Bay Coun. Frank May said his community’s initial displeasure around the agreement centred on a lack of knowledge of what was in it.

May said COVID-19 played a large role in the information gap, as the Qikiqtani Inuit Association — the group that represents Inuit communities for the region — and Baffinland negotiated the agreement during lockdowns when representatives could not consult with communities.

“It never really got explained to people what was in [the agreement] and what was going on,” May said.

Since then, May said the QIA has made a presentation to Arctic Bay community members about the agreement, and these concerns have been alleviated.

Baffinland did not approach the hamlet about writing an open letter of support for the Mary River mine expansion, May said.

Brian Penney, president and CEO of Baffinland, visited Arctic Bay around six to eight months ago in a tour of the communities affected by the mine. He offered benefits, such as an office building and training for small motor repair, May said.

Some opposition to the Baffinland mine expansion remains. The QIA removed support for the Mary River mine expansion in March of this year and still holds that position.

At the time, QIA’s then-president P.J. Akeeagok, stated Inuit “did not participate in the development of the [expansion] proposal, and key information about project impacts remain unclear.” Akeeagok was elected as an MLA in last week’s territorial election.

Baffinland spokesperson Stuart Weinberg says the company has been engaging with the affected communities, citing 54 public meetings.

Weinberg said some of the new commitments as a result of meetings include new freshwater monitoring programs and construction of community infrastructure.

The hearings on Baffinland’s expansion of Mary River mine resume in Iqaluit from Nov. 1 to 6.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by So far on

    So far the only real vocal opposition to this project seems to be from the Mittimatalik HTO in Pond Inlet who went there and created blockades (remember who was representing them legally: Lori Idlout). Wonder how many MHTO members actually rely on the mine for their livelihoods or do they all just expect the Gov to pay for all their needs through handouts. This whole fetishization of a traditional lifestyle has to eventually be put to rest. The Inuit population has outgrown the possibility of a sustainable lifestyle and NIRB’s extensive research on this project has shown that there will be very little impact on the surrounding areas. This is Canada, not some third-world country where kids are mining precious metals, which often end up in our snowmachines, which we use to hunt.

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  2. Posted by Terry Dobbin on

    It is best to sit down and find creative solutions to address and resolve the current issues before the NIRB and support responsible advancement of the mine. While at the same time being diligent to ensure the work being proposed is done with due care for the environment. The NIRB process is a good one to provide those assurances.
    Despite the lengthy delayed assessment process over the past few year, Baffinland has demonstrated a strong commitment to working with the QIA, and the five effected communities in developing the Mary River Project in a responsible and sustainable fashion.
    The Mary River project is a game changing opportunity for Nunavut and Nunavummiut. It will provide an opportunity for longer term training, employment, and sustained revenues for Inuit Associations for generations to come.

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    • Posted by Tom Naqitarvik on

      Hamlet did this with out asking the people of Arctic Bay

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      The people of Arctic Bay elected the mayor and council to act on behalf of the collective citizenry. They simply can’t turn around and say “yeah but they don’t represent us on this issue”. This is the kind of banana republic stuff that will drive Baffinland to shut down the project.

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  3. Posted by pissed off on

    Listen for a minute No 1.

    Who are supposed to be heard in issues like that if not for the Hamlet council?

    Who do you suppose the various parties involved are to ask for their cooperation in resolving issues if not for the Hamlet councils ?

    Ever heard of democracy ? Ever heard of elected people and their duty to make decisions based on what is best for those who have elected them. ?

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    • Posted by How About Appointees? on

      I completely understand where you’re coming from and I agree with democratically elected Hamlet Councillors representing the communties.
      How about communities that didn’t have enough candidates? There are some communries that have Councils that were just appointed after the cut-off date for nominating individuals to run. All they had to do was show interest in being on Council. Or the mayor or whoever appointed whomever wanted to be on Council to make it a full slate of Councillors. Do they really represent the community if they weren’t elected?

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      • Posted by Innocent Bystander on

        Do you really think a community deserves to be consulted if their citizenry doesn’t even have enough interest in community affairs to run enough candidates to fill council seats?

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  4. Posted by Justin on

    It’s hamlet not Arctic Bay lots of us don’t support this 😤

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  5. Posted by John on

    Arctic Bay is not the only community that has sent letters of support. Letters of support were sent to NIRB by the Hamlet of Sanirajak and Grise Fiord as well. The vocal minority opposing the project on forums like this doesn’t necessarily match with the more widespread community support that is actually out there.

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  6. Posted by Northern Baffin on

    This needs to be carefully considered. i would support the project if they did dust mitigating measures. there are only a handful of non supporters that are the loudest voices. I hope the people who want to work speak up. Some people are only vindictive and want it stopped for frivolous reasons. Some are just jumping on the coat tails of others. Welfare cant buy us skidoos and boats and motors. Most of the hunters need jobs to maintain their equipment. We don’t live in the 1900’s anymore.
    gotta have jobs.

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    • Posted by Innocent Bystander on

      Everyone knows that the opposition in north Baffin communities largely comes from the family of one politically active man. Why doesn’t someone say it? The silent majority should be silent no more and call out these self-serving people.

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    • Posted by This is for the dust. on

      As far as I know this project is basically all about reducing the dust.

      1- get an indoor crusher to reduce dust.

      2- get a rail line to pay for the indoor crusher. Which also reduces enviroental impact.

      Pound for pound, the “greenest” way to move ore is by a train, not by trucks. They use far less fuel and expel much less emissions than a fleet of trucks hauling ore on dusty gravel roads.

      If Inuit are truly for their environment then they would whole heartedly support this expansion.

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  7. Posted by Random Dude on

    Almost all these comments saying there’s a lot of support for expansion don’t even read like they’re Inuit, from my years of seeing how Inuit write. Not saying there aren’t Inuit with good grammar, but the way these comments are being written feels like non-Inuit. So far Baffinland have been using very underhanded tactics to try to force their expansion through, so I’m just a bit suspicious about these comments saying the expansion has overwhelming support.

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