Baffinland protesters awaiting meetings with Inuit organizations

Protesters who occupied airstrip worry about mine expansion’s environmental impacts

The Nuluujaat Land Guardians’ lawyer, Lori Idlout, says she has not heard from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to schedule a meeting to discuss direct community benefits with the protesters who blockaded the Mary River mine tote road and airstrip. (Screenshot from NIRB/Zoom)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Updated at 6 p.m.

The protesters behind the recent blockade of the Mary River iron mine’s airstrip and road say they’re still waiting to schedule meetings with Inuit organizations to discuss their demands.

The group, who call themselves the Nuluujaat Land Guardians, ended their protest of a proposed mine expansion in the area on Feb. 11, after a judge ordered them to clear the airstrip, so workers at the Mary River iron mine could leave.

The mine is owned by Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., which wants to double its output and construct a railway. The hunters worry the expansion will be hard on wildlife in the area.

Baffinland says the protesters have also spoken to the company about wanting to see more benefits flowing to north Baffin communities near the mine.

During the protests, Pond Inlet Mayor Joshua Arreak proposed a plan to end the blockade by holding a meeting between the protesters, community leaders, Premier Joe Savikataaq and Inuit organizations, as soon as possible.

Two weeks later, protesters say they’re still waiting to learn when those meetings will happen.

Marie Naqitarvik, spokesperson for the protesters, said they spoke with a representative from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. on Monday and that, overall, the conversation was positive.

“But they never made a date [for a meeting],” she said.

Nunatsiaq News called Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk several times between Tuesday and Wednesday and was not able to reach her for comment.

Naqitarvik said the Qikiqtani Inuit Association has not been in touch with any of the protesters since the blockade ended.

In an interview with Nunatsiaq News, QIA President P.J. Akeeagok said the association has been working with Lori Idlout, who is the protesters’ lawyer and a technical adviser for the Ikajutit Hunters and Trappers Organization.

“The logistics are still being worked out but we’re looking forward to hearing the concerns directly from the protesters that were blockading that site,” Akeeagok said.

Akeeagok said two letters were sent out on Feb. 8 and 10, the first being a joint letter between QIA and NTI that invited the hunters to meetings to discuss direct benefits to affected communities. The association would not provide Nunatsiaq News with the letters, stating they were not meant to be made public.

But Idlout said she has not heard from anyone at QIA, even after she told them the hunters had accepted the invitation.

“I have reached out to QIA on a couple of occasions requesting an update as to when meetings [can] start being planned,” Idlout wrote in an email to Nunatsiaq News, “but I have not received any responses.”

Baffinland estimates that by 2038 it will pay $1.4 billion to NTI and $1 billion to QIA.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board final hearing on Baffinland’s proposed mine expansion was set to wrap up Feb. 6. But the board decided to extend the hearing to give hamlets and Inuit associations more time ask questions. The hearing will resume in Iqaluit from April 12 to 21.

This article has been updated to clarify the objectives of the protesters and to clarify the amount of money Inuit associations receive in royalties.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by Samuel Browne on

    This illegal blockade is over.QIA has an obligation to take care of the communities the mine affects..Lori idlout is grandstanding other mining companies are watching..rail line is better than how many truck loads a day stockpiling.lets hope the protesters don’t bite their noses to spite thier faces..and Qia don’t blow the share holders money(not personal piggy bank for hierarchy) the way its being done by mismanagers@ in point..northern fiasco&300k that walked out of an account with no accountability to the guy with sticky fingers..odious..loss of fuel contract & a slew of indiscretions ..beneficiary share holders in name…are being left out in the cold..yet the people @the trough are getting richer in kitimeot..proof is in the gap that wider ..between the haves and the have-nots.. so qia must learn from Kia mismanaged.. spread the money to the real beneficiaries..the people..your people…


  2. Posted by Just Askin’ on

    Did anyone notice a story in the Globe & Mail on Feb 22 (Monday) where QIA spokesperson Williamson Bathory said that QIA was now OPPOSING Phase 2 for the mine?

    Is this the official QIA position? If so, can QIA tell people here in Nunavut.

    If not, can QIA explain why this story is published in a southern newspaper and no one is retracting it?

    • Posted by Observation Post on

      Good question, I can see the headline but don’t have a subscription to the G&M. Maybe Nunatsiaq could follow up on this?

        • Posted by News Hound on

          Thanks, but I am getting a paywall. Dear Nunatsiaq, this is important news, can you follow up?

          • Posted by Of Possible Interest on

            From the Globe article:

            While the hamlets of Pond Inlet and Clyde River, as well as one influential hunter and trapper organization, had already come out in opposition to the expansion of Mary River, the QIA hadn’t made its position clear.

            Stephen Williamson Bathory, a special adviser with QIA, said in an interview that the organization has held off in making a decision because it wanted to hear from the full range of Inuit voices. Now, after listening to stakeholders, most of whom are opposed to the expansion, he indicated the QIA, too, will be against it.

            “Our board took a very clear position that it was always going to prioritize the environmental and social impact of the mine over anything else,” Mr. Williamson Bathory said.

            “Clearly there are camps that are forming for and against. And the against camps seem to have the majority.”

            • Posted by hello out there on

              I wonder if any of our local news outlets are planning in reporting on this? It seems like a significant development in this story.

    • Posted by Jobsworth on

      Could someone also explain why the non-Inuk “Special Advisor to the President” is interviewed at length on this important policy issue but the President or any elected representative is nowhere to be found?

  3. Posted by Rebecca J. on

    Of course there is no news of this in Nunavut. QIA’s same old game, big spend, big plans, and empty words and promises to everyone outside of Iqaluit. They have always been like this. Time for change!

  4. Posted by Me on

    QIA for supporting protesters show yourself

  5. Posted by Not that simple on

    It’s not that simple as QIA supporting for or against. BIMC has an IOL lease with QIA, but BIMC holds other leases like INAC. Having a lease and an IIBA does not prevent QIA from participating in IPG reviews, and stating their concerns on the environment or wildlife or harvesting during the IPG processes, or a proponent’s mitigation requirements.

  6. Posted by Get Real on

    We’ve been at this for more than 20 years. Still no Land Use Plan.
    Still no serious plan to achieve representative Inuit employment in the Government of Nunavut.
    Still no plan to develop a Nunavut economy where most government contracting goes to Inuit owned firms that are managed by Inuit and employ mostly Inuit to do the work.
    Still no serious plan to develop the skilled Inuit labour force needed for Nunavummiut to utilize Nunavt’s resources for the benefit of Nunavummiut.
    Still no education plan except “send your kids to school”. We are told that average attendance of students is 70%. They would go to school if they thought it would be of benefit to them. They are saying “the emperor has no clothes”.
    There are no believable plans anywhere in Nunavut.
    Yet a few hunters expect QIA to hand over control of their major source of income.


  7. Posted by Me on

    QIA President should have came to Pond Inlet to hold meeting with The Guardians, he is not showing himself to Mittimatalikmiut for what reason I do not know.

  8. Posted by Silas on

    According to Baffinland’s calculations NTI benefits approximately $60million/year and QIA benefits about $45million/year.
    It’s no wonder the communities want more of a say and the two boards are hesitant to meet with them. It is a pile of money.
    How will it best be invested or spent? Invested would be better than spent. Once the ore is gone Inuit will be right back to the way it has always been, government hand-outs.

    • Posted by Facts on

      I am not sure where you are getting your sources from but you are way off with numbers. From my following of stories NTI has not received any funds from Baffinland yet until perhaps 2026 under phase one or 2030 under phase two. QIA does not get 40 million a year but they have received something in that range or a bit more since the operation started

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