Baffinland’s critics take aim at government reps at NIRB hearing

‘How will the relations between the federal government and Inuit be reconciled if … the minister goes ahead?’

In his line of questioning Tuesday, Igloolik Working Group chair Peter Ivalu asked government agencies about their commitment to supporting Inuit in regards to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. expansion proposal. (Photo by David Venn).

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Opponents of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed Mary River mine expansion turned their fire on government representatives during Tuesday’s Nunavut Impact Review Board’s public hearing, questioning their commitment to Inuit opinions.

Baffinland, which is seeking approval to double the mine’s annual production to 12 million tonnes, construct a 110-km railway between Milne Inlet and the Mary River mine, and add a dock to the port, was off the hook for more questions than usual.

Peter Ivalu, chairperson of the Igloolik Working Group — which brings together a range of representatives from the community — questioned the Department of Fisheries and Oceans about its integration of Inuit qaujimajatuqangit, or traditional knowledge, into its studies.

Gabriel Bernard-Lacaille, a senior biologist with the federal department, responded, “Inuit qaujimajatuqangit was not necessarily considered explicitly by the department in discussions about monitoring programs with Baffinland.”

“Our department [is expert] in providing western science-based advice,” he said, adding that the department believes Inuit qaujimajatuqangit will be consulted throughout the review board process and relayed to the federal minister of northern affairs, who is responsible for approving or rejecting Baffinland’s expansion plan.

Ivalu then went on to ask the federal Department of Crown-Indigenous and Northern Affairs what decision it will make if the board recommends against the proposal.

“How do you propose to proceed if impacted communities do not support Phase 2?” Ivalu asked.

“How will the relations between the federal government and Inuit be reconciled if the impacted community do not support it, but the minister goes ahead?” Ivalu said, citing a previous decision by a former northern affairs minister to make a decision contrary to the NIRB’s recommendation.

Spencer Dewar, director of resource management for the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, said the government has no expectation about what the board’s recommendation will be, but when the recommendation is given, Inuit opinions will be considered.

“Therefore we deeply encourage Inuit to share their concerns,” Dewar said.

Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization chairperson Eric Ootoovak asked other hamlets and hunters and trappers organizations if the federal government provided them with enough funding for “adequate participation.”

Merlyn Recinos, the mayor of Igloolik, said the hamlet applied for more than $450,000 for funding to help pay for co-ordinating group meetings for communities in north Baffin Island, and received about three quarters of that amount.

In his capacity as a technical advisor for the North Baffin group, which is a group representing Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Igloolik, Arctic Bay and Sanirajak, Recinos said they “received one-third of what was asked.”

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 spent finishing 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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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by When the dust settles so to speak on

    BIM has been doing all it can to mitigate community environmental concerns throughout the complete process. However, at the end of the day we need to ask ourselves can this project be financially feasible at 6MT/year? What is the commodity price drops drastically as it did in 2015? If that answer is no, then we need to ask ourselves do we want to face the reality of potentially shutting down the largest mining operation in Nunavut, and close to 500 Inuit employees losing their jobs. This is the reality. Is there anything else on the horizon that will bring the Baffin out of economic disparity? I don’t think so. Don’t depend on Government handout as the pandemic as left those pockets empty! Once Oceans North and WWF goes home, Nunavummiut will be left holding the bag, thinks about that!

    • Posted by Consistency on

      If Baffinland did end up shuting down maybe Meadow Bank and Meladine can hire more Inuit from the Qik to work in those mines increasing the Inuit percentage, that is unless the only jobs that Baffinland has hired Inuit for are the cooking and cleaning staff, which might be full already of Kivalliqmiut. which if this is the case then there needs to be some tough questions as to why only those positions are being filled with Inuit.

    • Posted by two ports and two railways on

      The company wants to build TWO ports and TWO railways for ONE mine. If they were doing ‘everything they could’ to mitigate environmental impacts, they would stick to one port and one railway.

      Also, if they were doing ‘everything they could’ to address community concerns, they never would have shipped ore out of Milne Inlet in the first place.

      And if they were doing ‘everything they could’ to address concerns, they would have been open and transparent to increase shipping to 18MT through Milne Inlet, instead of letting communities find out about it from ENGOs.

    • Posted by Silas on

      Regardless, once Baffinland has extracted the iron that they are so adamant in doing, they will leave and your comments will hold true anyway. It is only a matter of time. The question should be: “What will benefit the Inuit, who are the perpetual land holders/maintainers, the most.”
      The closing of the mine is guaranteed, the animals that the Inuit have depended on for centuries is not. That is the reason the Inuit are fighting so hard because they know the long term consequences.

  2. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    good job Everyone, keep asking the right questions.

    is it true that Baffinland has already started preliminary work on the railroad stands?

    has to be asked and found out if this is true.

  3. Posted by Anonymous on

    Finally, some questions to CIRNAC. Note that CIRNAC, when they make their final decision base their decision on the national and regional interest. These considerations will form the basis of whether or not BL proceeds or not and under what terms and conditions. Have the CIRNAC officials that are sitting at these NIRB meeting alongside the Pond Inlet HTO been transparent about what national and regional interests they are considering? Have they given the Pond Inlet HTO an opportunity to comment on those national and regional interests?

  4. Posted by boris pasternak on

    Barking at the wrong tree, these execs don t sneeze or spit without their BoDs approval. Get to BoDs and you will have a fighting chance. Anyway rail is a lot cleaner than the wheels blowing dust 24/7, year in year out. work on Nunavut Rail, head office Pond Inlet, NU. It does have a ring to it…

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