Baffinland’s Inuit landlord won’t support Mary River expansion

“There are issues raised by impacted communities that have not yet been addressed”

Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq (third from the right), the chair of the Nunavut Impact Review Board, with board member Catherine Emrick on the far left of the photo, and on the right, board members Uriash Puqiqnak and Madeleine Qumuatuq at the board’s public hearing in Iqaluit this weekend. (Screen shot)

By Jim Bell

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association, which controls most of the land occupied by the Mary River iron mine, refuses to endorse or support the mine owner’s railway-based expansion proposal, says the organization’s president, P.J. Akeeagok.

Following a special board meeting held on Oct. 30, the QIA dropped this bombshell declaration into the hands of the Nunavut Impact Review Board in the form of a letter on Nov. 1, just before the start of the review board’s final public hearing in Iqaluit on Baffinland’s phase two expansion proposal on Nov. 2.

At their special meeting, QIA board members voted unanimously to take that position, Akeeagok’s letter said.

“Many of QIA’s environmental and cultural concerns regarding Baffinland’s Phase 2 proposal have not been adequately resolved. We are also concerned that there are issues raised by impacted communities that have not yet been addressed,” QIA said.

However, QIA stopped short of saying the NIRB should recommend the federal government reject the project.

But Akeeagok did say QIA is “specifically sensitive” to what it has heard from Pond Inlet, the community that’s affected most by the Mary River iron mine.

In that community, the Hamlet of Pond Inlet has already declared its opposition to the phase two expansion proposal in its current form.

“We ask that the Phase 2 Proposal not be approved until such time as Baffinland can demonstrate that it can meet employment targets, follow through on its renewed commitment to IQ in its research, monitoring, mitigation practices and consultation with the community,” the hamlet told the NIRB on Sept. 20.

In its proposal, Baffinland wishes to build a 110-kilometre railway from Mary River to Milne Inlet, increase production from six million to 12 million tonnes of ore per year, and use up to 176 transits by ore-carrying vessels to take its product to market.

But the Hamlet of Pond Inlet also said the risks of the expansion are too great and the benefits too small.

“We do not believe the project will produce, at this time, net benefits for our community or the north Baffin region,” the hamlet said.

The QIA manages most of the Inuit-owned land occupied by the Mary River mine and effectively acts as Baffinland’s landlord, collecting commercial land lease and royalty payments through its Inuit impact and benefit agreement.

Over the past few months, the QIA has worked with communities affected by the Mary River expansion, including Arctic Bay, Cape Dorset, Clyde River, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Kimmirut and Pond Inlet.

That includes multiple meetings, including a meeting with hamlet representatives held on Oct. 7 in Iqaluit, Akeeagok said.

They found that hunters still have serious problems with the 110-kilometre railway that Baffinland wants to build between Mary River and Milne Inlet, and are worried about its impact on caribou migration and travel by hunters.

For that reason, the Mittimatalik hunters and trappers organization also opposes approval of the project.

“MHTO does not recommend approval of the railway or additional mining at this time,” the organization told the NIRB in a Sept. 23 submission.

On Nov. 3, the QIA’s director of lands and development, Jared Ottenhoff, and other QIA representatives peppered Baffinland staff with questions about the company’s approach to Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.

For example, QIA delegate Alistair MacDonald suggested that Baffinland’s IQ studies do not acknowledge that Inuit in the region have serious concerns about the railway.

“As a result of those studies, you still didn’t find that it had major issues with the railroad, you still didn’t find any significant adverse effects on Inuit culture, resource and land use,” MacDonald said.

The NIRB’s final public hearing on Baffinland’s proposal will run from Nov. 2 to Nov. 6 in Iqaluit and then move to Pond Inlet, where the hearing will continue on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9.

After the hearing wraps up, the NIRB must file a report with the federal northern affairs minister within 45 days, saying whether or not it recommends approval of the project, with a set of recommended terms and conditions.

QIA Letter to NIRB by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(17) Comments:

  1. Posted by Withheld on

    Good bye jobs, hello Social Assistance….

    • Posted by WB on

      The trouble is, if this expansion goes ahead most of the new positions won’t go to Inuit. None of these groups are saying no to Mary River or even to a modest expansion.

      Baffinland is proposing ramping up production very quickly to very high levels. At present, its Inuit employment rate is dismal. If it expands now, the new jobs will go to non-Inuit and the resource will be exhausted more quickly.

      • Posted by Baffinland Worker on

        There is at least 100 years worth of iron extraction in the mine. As far as Inuit employment goes, it will only increase if the mine production also increase.

        I know that everyone is looking for Inuit workers at Mary River right now but very few Inuits are actually volunteering to work here. Maybe employers do not have the right approach and are thus failing to attract new workers? I know for a fact that any candidate from Nunavut will be welcomed with open arms at Baffinland and will be fully trained for the many jobs available.

        I also know that many jobs will be created by the railway construction project and that many of those jobs are waiting for Inuit candidates. Training programs are in place to train workers to the stringent safety standards of the mine and to transform new workers with little or no experience into mining and construction industry professionals.

        I wish the rail project will go ahead and that more and more Inuit join my team! If not, I fear many of us will loose their jobs here in Nunavut…

  2. Posted by Colin on

    Given the head start on this property when Murray Watts saw its potential in the 1960s, there could and should have been near 100 percent Inuit employment by now at this mine. Inuit needed to be trained to become real geologists, mining engineers, marine biologists, assayers, accountants, airline pilots and so on.

    That’s what Inuit in bygone times expected for their children and grandchildren, people like Abe Okpik and Peter Pitseolak.

    So what are the qualifications of the people on this board to decide anything?

    It’s getting to be that that the only industry in too many Indigenous areas is preventing industry. Maybe the federal government will wake up eventually and act on the unrebuttable fact that there has to be a relationship between wealth-creating activity and paying for housing or anything else in Nunavut.

    • Posted by Moratorium on

      The minerals aren’t going to disappear, I’d like to see a pause on all mining activities until we have a trained population.

      • Posted by iRoll on

        How are you going to have a “trained population” with no mining activity? Anyway, it’s too late, you don’t close a mine because no one from the communities wants to work, you bring in people who do, then bitch about it until the end of time.

  3. Posted by About time. on

    I applaud QIA in their stance. It’s about time Baffinland was held accountable to the people if this land to meet its contractual minimum requirements. It’s enough that so much of these jobs and profits go south like the ore on the ships. It’s time the Inuit took contol of their land back from greedy southern corporations who have taken liberties time and again.

    • Posted by Joanasie Inuktarak on

      About Time,
      What….really. You are complaining because the ore goes south. I did not know Nunavut had steel plants that they could use the ore in? Where are these located at? Surely a steel plant in Nunavut creates thousands of jobs. Maybe if I get a job at the steel plant, I can feed my family and put a roof over my head. There are no other jobs here in Pond Inlet. Social Assistance and Public Housing if you wait long enough. Or I can go work at Mary and make over $100,000. Inuit employment is getting much good. There are many more INuit there then before. Lots of programs, training, and opportunity.

      • Posted by Makes no sense on

        Thank you Joanasie for saying it like it is. How is baffin land suppose to hire if nobody wants a job, baffin land had a job fair in Iqaluit couple weeks ago and literally nobody showed up. Good jobs for good wages and good benefits and nobody shows up, I’d love to apply but i was told i can’t cause I’m white ok that’s fair but how’s a company supposed to operate with no employees. You see job postings from baffin land that are months old, but everyone is complaining that they don’t hire enough Inuit. Guess it’s easier to complain about the government not doing their job then applying for a job. How’s the government of Nunavut suppose to pay for everything if nobody is working, the government needs tax revenue, to pay for housing, medical etc… But what do I know I’m just a white guy stealing a job i can’t get in Nunavut.

    • Posted by DAN ARBOUR on

      The profits go over seas and not to their southern shell company called Baffinland…it all goes to ArcelorMittal an Indian consortium.
      The inuit and Canadians got totally raped on the deal to sell out the highest grade iron ore (82 percent) globe for 500+M.
      I worked there for Nuna Logistics and subsequently was the ‘first’ operator hired for Site services.

  4. Posted by QIA seems to be Benifiting on

    “The Mary River Mine is an open pit iron mine operated by the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation in the Mary River area of Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada. It is said to be the world’s sixth most northerly mine.”

    “Paul Waldie, a business reporter for The Globe and Mail, called the project one of the most ambitious in any Arctic region, and said it was expected to “triple the territory’s annual gross domestic product growth rate and provide nearly $5-billion in tax revenue and royalties to the territory over the life of the project.”

    Triple the territories GDP, and provide nearly 5 billion in tax revenues and royalties. – Wow seems like a pretty good thing for a depressed territory relying on government handouts and transfer payments.

    And let’s talk about Royalty payments and land lease payments provided to QIA? They have a war chest provided by Baffinland. What are they doing with it? Nothing is the answer. Travelling lots, paying consultants, but not a darn thing for the communities.

    QIA expects Baffinland to do all kinds of things for the communities, and is worried about Baffinland taking care of the communities. What about the QIA. Shouldn’t they do something for their own communities instead of taking hand outs and sitting on it.

    Shame on the QIA for being so judgmental. Why don’t you shut it down, and see how Nunavut does then?

  5. Posted by Tommy on

    The risk to benefits ratio is not so enticing now, is it?

  6. Posted by Peter on

    I worked here for 3 years. This company goes above and beyond for the local communities, they’re constantly trying to hire locals and put in apprentice trade courses.
    I would like to hear comments from the locals who work here and see how they feel.
    This company employs over 1000+ people from all over canada.
    It helps Nunavuts economy.
    They’re always fixing locals snow machines and atvs/ shipping they up and down the road etc.
    They do cultural activities and try and incorporate the “country” food.
    I also see people commenting about the caribou. I have never heard of any caribou sighting around this mine. Environment Canada census in 1990 was 100000+, today they estimate less then 5000 caribou in 2010.
    This was before the mine was even here so i dont know how you guys are blaming the mine.
    Ask the locals here, they make good money and baffinland is providing all the training and just recently sent over 50+ students to Ottawa for training on heavy equipment.
    So when you say they don’t do anything for the locals. Look into it first because you guys are getting false information.
    If you apply to baffindland and youre local. you will get hired. simple as that.

  7. Posted by Kublu Kublu on

    If they did accept it would decrease the ships and would create less dust on the land ,they are lotta ship that goes through pond inlet with the bigger ships it would decrease the number of the ship and if they accept the train it would also decrease the dust on totes road cause there’s lotta dust on the road when they are using the trucks but if there’s a train it would decrease the dust

    • Posted by Kublu Kublu on

      It would be eco friendly to the environment

  8. Posted by What if? on

    Baffinland needs to increase production to raise funds to expand the mine. But Inuit don’t want to support this project.

    We have gotten used to people working there and making good money. What if Baffinland decides to start laying people off, thanks to the lack of support.

    100 positions will account for 10 million dollars no longer going into North Baffin Communities. Then what?

    Great job NTI and QIA. Are you going to give 100 people jobs at 100 thousand each?

    Mark my words. Something has to give. We don’t support expansion, no problem. Then we don’t support employment. Don’t cry when people are laid off.

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