Baffinland critics question mining company’s commitments as NIRB hearing resumes
Board is considering company’s proposal to double output at Mary River iron mine
Opposition to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed expansion of its Mary River mine didn’t skip a beat Monday when the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s hearing into the project resumed in Iqaluit.
As part of what it calls its Phase 2 project, Baffinland wants to construct a 110-km railway from the Mary River iron mine to Milne Inlet, add an additional dock at Milne Inlet, and increase the mine’s output to 12 million tonnes a year from six million tonnes.
The company’s proposal has been before the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which considers the potential impact of proposed developments in Nunavut, since 2019.
But once again critics raised similar concerns to those that were heard in previous sessions, such as whether the company has done enough to include Inuit in managing the mine’s impacts on wildlife and establishing baseline data to gauge environmental impacts.
Another ongoing subject of criticism is the Inuit Certainty Agreement, a deal between Baffinland and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to give oversight and benefits to Inuit communities affected by the mine project. Critics say QIA didn’t adequately consult Inuit from communities near the mine before signing the deal.
Warren Bernauer, advisor to the Hamlet of Clyde River, said the marine environmental working group has not been effective at monitoring potential impacts, isn’t transparent and that there are no members from Clyde River’s hunters and trappers organization or hamlet in the group.
“Decisions made by the working group can have major consequences for the aboriginal rights and food security of Clyde River residents,” he said.
Megan Lord-Hoyle, Baffinland’s vice-president of sustainable development, said the mining company will commit to being more transparent with communities by posting all relevant information about the working group meetings on its website.
In an interview with Nunatsiaq News, Baffinland’s vice-president of community and strategic development, Udloriak Hanson, said the company will continue to improve its consultation processes with its working groups that include Inuit as well as the territorial and municipal governments.
“We’re going to have to constantly adjust and ensure we are addressing concerns,” said Hanson.
Andrew Dumbrille, World Wildlife Fund Canada’s lead specialist on marine shipping and conservation, said Baffinland has been “unsuccessful” in creating early warning indicators for environmental impacts.
“The lack of progress on this doesn’t inspire confidence that it will happen in the future,” Dumbrille said.
But Baffinland’s senior director of sustainable development, Lou Kamermans, said the company has set up early warning indicators for marine mammals and that it is confident it can replicate them for other parts of the project.
The review board’s hearing on Baffinland will continue until April 21. It’s an extension of a hearing that began in January and resumed Monday.
The first four days will be allocated to finish the hearing’s technical sessions, which is when critics ask questions about unresolved issues they have. The following five days will be used for a community roundtable, where members from each affected community can ask Baffinland and other meeting participants questions and voice their concerns.
After the Nunavut Impact Review Board completes its hearing, it will pass its recommendation on to Dan Vandal, the federal minister of northern affairs, who will approve or reject the project.