Baffinland protesters awaiting meetings with Inuit organizations
Protesters who occupied airstrip worry about mine expansion’s environmental impacts
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.