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

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s vice-president of sustainable development Megan Lord-Hoyle and senior director of sustainable development Lou Kamermans remotely address a conference room in the Aqsarniit hotel in Iqaluit on the first day of the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s resumed hearing into the company’s proposed mine expansion. (Photo by David Venn)

By Nunatsiaq News

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.

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(30) Comments:

  1. Posted by Misery everywhere on

    The misery session continues. Let it all out people, let’s show them what Nunavut does best, complain, complain and then complain just a little more.

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    • Posted by sam on

      Look at all the people in the picture,taking care of our intrests,airlines and hotels and bars doing good

  2. Posted by Anonymous on

    The FINAL say on this, whether BL proceeds and under what terms and conditions, is with CIRNAC. Are the hearing parties at this process questioning just as critically the CIRNAC officials that are sitting at this meeting? CIRNAC is not simply providing information for NIRB’s “consideration”; the CIRNAC Minister, with help from CIRNAC officials attending this process will have the FINAL say. CIRNAC should not get away with sitting beside the Pond Inlet HTO as if all they are doing is providing information to NIRB.

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  3. Posted by J – z on

    The biggest hurdles to overcome now are these:
    1. BIM loosing social and political trust in the territory
    2. Dangerous state of changes in marine life under BIMs current operations
    3. Misinformation provided by BIM with respect to marine tests and monitoring, future intentions, and shady back deals.

    BIM dug their worst hole ever by not being upfront with their intentions. As well, lack of due dillagence making sure the commitments it made to communities (made throuth QIA) actually happened.
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    Hearing the big boss at BIM offering the same tidbits as what was offered in the early revenue phase was very dishearteneing. So was not hearing anything about the ICB before it was signed.
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    In a perfect world BIM would remain as they are until the environment is again stable. Prompting Phase 2 for the better environment likens to harrasment, and treating people as ignorant.
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    Living without Phase 2 is not in the timeline of the Mine, but it would be better to see these issues ironed out over time first, and get the communities and animals as they should be first. Not in a NIRB meeting. Should have been posponed till 2022 to see how BIM could act better.
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    QIA too.
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    I have to add that the biggest kicker for me personally was seeing BIM having started construction on the railway foundations well into the tundra before these meetings. Politically/Financially speaking, they would need to approve Phase 2, or BIM goes up for sale, and becomes riddled with lawsuits. Approval would be nothing short of intense pocket lining by the investing stockholders.

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      • Posted by Stop being gullible on

        This is the third time a false statement regarding the construction of the railway has been made. Upon investigation, the previous two statements were proven false. Unless BIM somehow managed to start construction of the railway bed in the last two months, this statement is false as well. Don’t believe everything you read in the comments section.

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    • Posted by Information About Rail Construction? on

      Well said. This is an exceptionally well-considered comment.

      RE: “the biggest kicker for me personally…” — there are intervenors seeking information about any rail construction (staging equipment, earthworks, infrastructure, etc.) that has occurred up to this point. Please reach out to any of the community or ngo intervenors opposed to the expansion at this time if you’re open to sharing what you’ve witnessed… it would definitely be appreciated.

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  4. Posted by Terry Dobbin on

    At the end of the day the NIRB review should be based on its technical merits and proponents plans to mitigate community concerns.
    Also, An IIBA is essentially a contract between the project proponent and the RIA and there are always specific provisions in an IIBA that relates to a change in project scope (Project expansion). Article #3 Sec 3.7 of the IIBA, which binds both parties and which is subject to the NIRB review. A lot of work is put into these agreement but apparently these provisions are not working as QIA has publicly indicated they do not support the project expansion. What kind of message does this send out to investors, governments and other Inuit Organizations that IIBA’s are not effective mechanisms for reaching an agreement between miner and land owner. Essentially the contract not worth the paper it is written on. A proponent enters into agreements in full accordance within the Nunavut Agreement, and at the end of the day, these agreements do not count for anything in front of a public environmental assessment. Something is terribly wrong with this picture.

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    • Posted by Inuk guy on

      Good point Terry. The designated RIO tasked with negotiating the terms has essentially thrown BIM under the bus. A bunch of face-saving politicking going on here.

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      • Posted by observer on

        You can have an IIBA and subsequently have a disagreement. I’m not sure I agree that QIA deciding that the project impacts being felt from existing work are such that Phase 2 is not a good idea does constitute a violation of their existing agreements. Those agreements left lots of space – indeed were predicated on certain baselines not being impacted, and thresholds not being surpassed.

        I think the position of QIA (and other Inuit orgs, communities) as I read it is – we are feeling effects from existing work, those effects are significant and poorly understood. Furthermore they are being inadequately mitigated or monitored (and we are not even sure they can be adequately compensated). Therefore, until we see good faith action (e.g. extensive project modification, way more and better research into effects and possible (or not possible) recovery of the environment etc.) then we (Inuit) are withholding our consent to progress mine expansion to Phase 2.

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        • Posted by observer on

          “What kind of message does this send out to investors, governments and other Inuit Organizations that IIBA’s are not effective mechanisms for reaching an agreement between miner and land owner. Essentially the contract not worth the paper it is written on.”

          I’m sorry but this is farcical. To insinuate that the current situation is a QIA and not a BIMC problem, is to suggest that “caveat emptor” is the only rule that matters in the world of EA and IIBA’s. Agreements are made between communities and miners, predicated on the assumption that parties will act in good faith and be open and honest when it comes to the provision of accurate knowledge about the effects of their project. There is a gapping whole in this process where good science and a solid understanding of project effects should be – and that is no one’s fault but BIMC’s.

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    • Posted by All in on

      The nunavut agreement says IIBAs will be in line with terms from a project certificate. Should benefits agreements really be signed before impact assessment is done? Doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense if youre looking at environmental impact

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    • Posted by Compromise is possible on

      Well said. What’s wrong with this picture? New protagonists were introduced during the end of the last NIRB session, Qikiqtaaluk Uangnangani Katujjiqatigiit and its subsidiary, the Nuluujaaq Land Guardians; Although not opposed to mining or the expansion of the mine, they were seeking to increase compensation from QIA to the communities closest to the mine by using a blockade on Mary River’s airstrip as leverage. Southern media outlets assumed this was strictly an environmental protest and did not attempt to contact the Guardians or realize the link between QUK and the Guardians even though they are immediate family. Small protests to support the Guardians broke out in Iqaluit, Igloolik, Naujaat Taloyoak, Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet and the southern media was all too happy to cover this new Greenpeace style movement against the proposed expansion of the mine. Viewing QUK as a threat to their continued existence, QIA and NTI tried to save face and voted to turn on BIM by claiming the last three years of consultations and negotiations did not have enough Inuit involvement, even though QIA and NTI were fully on board with the expansion before the protests.
      There is no bad actor here. Politics will always create issues that slow progress. Each party is trying to act in their own self interest. There has to be some kind of compromise that benefits all parties, especially the local residents, without ending mining on Baffin Island. The world is watching.

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    • Posted by Burned fingers on

      Baffinland undermined the intent of the Land Claim (Art 26 IIBAs with RIAs). For Mary River, this has been happening for years.

      https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/court-documents-show-growing-relationship-between-baffinland-and-potential-new-inuit-organization/

      With community positions in play, the IIBA / ICA are not going to help as they could. Who wins when the company pits Inuit against Inuit? Inuit do because they work together.

      The industry needs to pay much closer attention. This situation was preventable. And to think Baffinland sponsors the event on social confidence in Nunavut! lol

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  5. Posted by Inuk on

    How come Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s is not trying to improve what they are doing to the land and animals. Maybe they could learn from similar companies how they keep the dust from spreading so much to the animals and their habitats. Even the whales. I heard there were several dead killer whales washed up on the beach near there. They just want to take whatever is there to make money and not thinking about the people living near the mine. So sad.

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  6. Posted by Rail Tycoon on

    About 6 or 8 years ago the Canadian government of the day passed an omnibus bill.
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    It made changes to over 100 pieces of Federal Legislation.
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    One of the changes was only a few lines long. It made a small amendment to the Railway Act.
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    The effect of that change was to effectively give an “environmental get-out-ofjail-free”card to any company that owns a railway i Canada.
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    Yup.
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    Own a railway and you are immune from environmental legislation. Only in Canada, you say.
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    Could that be why BIM is so keen to get their railway approved, at any cost?

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  7. Posted by Ilaak on

    Where’s the MLA’s or any mayor? To say something. Did the government make a vow to be silent? Not one elected person has said anything to support the Inuit who are concerned about environmental issues and impacts on animals. This elected are a scared bunch. Too scared to say anything or to take sides. No wonder ppl don’t go out to vote now.

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    • Posted by Name withheld on

      QIA needs to demand and stop being passive if they want to protect the land, it shouldn’t have to only come from Environment, They need to understand that if you hurt the land, the ocean, it hurts all the animals who live in it,

      Protecting the land, the migration route for the caribou are all affected now, all due to gold and infrastructure decisions… Now Baffin Region is really paying the price… Soon Kivalliq Region will too along with Kitikmeot

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      • Posted by Ian on

        True the poor Kivalliq caribou,I am going out and harvest more and sell them.darn mining company’s

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        • Posted by Name withheld on

          Is that the same reason why the caribou decline in Baffin Region? As they were killed them all and sold them? Go figure

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          • Posted by NotReally on

            You can look up information on the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board website or GN website on that. What I have understood is that harvesting was not blamed for the decline of caribou on Baffin Island. The reason harvesting has been restricted has been to give caribou an opportunity to recover, by removing one obvious stress on the population, even if it wasn’t thought to be the main one. To be fair, it was odd that there was no quota for caribou on Baffin Island given the large human population in Iqaluit. What is happening to caribou in Kivalliq and Qikiqtaaluk is rather different from what I have understood.

            • Posted by Name withheld on

              The question I asked Ian was a sarcastic one. As he seems to think the mining industry does absolutely no damage to the land or its animals.

              Asking questions to Inutuuqai and getting their opinions matter and there are documentaries why the caribou has decline in the Baffin region.

              People need to stop being greedy in wanting to make income as once the land is damage you cannot get it back, the mining company will never replace it for you!! All they give you is BS that they will return it the way it was as it will never go back.

              For example an abuse person has been broken so much that he or she has lost the self image, self esteem, etc no matter how much counseling they take, the memory will always exist to take some of your happiness.

              It’s the same for the land and the animals. We are to respect the land as it is a living thing and the animals that call the land their home.

              Yes I agree Kivalliq communities are profiting with overly charge caribou meat to Baffin. But the fact of the matter remains that the mining is also damaging the land and its animals, whether it’s land or ocean

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    • Posted by Consistency on

      One Mayor is quoted in just about every article about BIM, though not this one. that is Mayor Recinos of Iglulik.

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