Baffinland technical meetings conclude
Community roundtable to be held on Sept. 28 through 30
The technical meeting examining Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed phase-two expansion came to a close last week, but unlike those in the past, the participants were scattered across the territory and beyond, as all of the interested parties called in via teleconference.
While the format was similar to in-person hearings, with presentations followed by question periods, the logistics were different.
Participants had the option to call in on either an English or Inuktitut line and would mute themselves until called upon by the moderator of the meeting, Karen Costello of the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
Originally cut short last November and then cancelled in March due to COVID-19 concerns, the hearings began via teleconference on Sept. 14 and ran through the week.
Prior to the start of the meeting, many parties felt as though the lack of face-to-face interactions would be significantly limiting.
Despite this, the meetings were an opportunity for Baffinland to address outstanding concerns and for interveners to get more information regarding the proposal.
One significant concern was the implementation of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.
“Our concerns are based on the presentation you made, and the treatment of IQ as data,” said Frank Tester, a technical advisor to the Hamlet of Pond Inlet.
“We want insight as to what this looks like in practice.”
Baffinland denied this.
“[IQ] is about recognizing what people value, and making sure we’re doing the best we can to accommodate that value and making sure we preserve it,” said Lou Kamermans, senior director of sustainable development for Baffinland.
At the same time, he acknowledged that the implementation of IQ does not mean there won’t be disagreements between the parties.
“Use of IQ does not need to mean that we agree on everything,” he said.
“There are certain components of the project where there is no project without those components. Those are non-negotiable to a certain extent. The railway, moving it. The anchoring point.”
Another topic of conversation was the mine’s proposed annual production, an issue first raised last October.
Although the current development proposal is to double Baffinland’s production, from 6 to 12 million tonnes, one of the concerns expressed by several interveners going into the meeting was whether the mine intends to expand annual production to 12, 18 or 25 million tonnes beyond the current proposal.
While it was clarified that this hearing was solely for production up to 12 million tonnes, Baffinland representatives said they want the mine to be able to exceed that if making up for a deficit in the previous year.
But this wouldn’t mean that the number of ore-carrier voyages or train trips could increase to make up for that deficit.
Other concerns stemmed from the transportation of an increased volume of ore, whether it be by ship or train, and the impact that would have on wildlife, such as caribou and narwhal.
One such concern was the location of the proposed railway, which interveners worry will have a significant impact on the caribou populations. Baffinland representatives said it’s their intent to have Inuit help identify crossing sites prior to the railway’s construction.
Next, the NIRB will host community roundtables and a pre-hearing conference, which will take place between Sept. 28 and 30 in person in Pond Inlet and via video conferencing in Iqaluit, Ottawa and Winnipeg.
The roundtable will allow up to three representatives from each of the communities potentially affected by Baffinland’s phase two development to discuss the proposal and participate in the NIRB’s assessment.
The pre-hearing conference will help all parties determine what steps and processes are still required before holding the final public hearing, including coming to an agreement on what issues have been resolved during last week’s technical meeting and which remain outstanding.
The conference will also be an opportunity to discuss and finalize the logistics of the final public hearing, which the NIRB has yet to set a date for.
With files from Meagan Deuling and Emma Tranter
Don’t know if I would be comfortable with Baffinland continuing to operate or even expand in the north. They do not have Inuit interests at heart. They have profit at the expense of Inuit as their goal. When will this stop?