Community reps oppose mine expansion at final day of Baffinland hearing

‘Our cultures and traditions are not for sale,’ says Pond Inlet’s Enookie Inuarak

“Our cultures and traditions are not for sale,” Enookie Inuarak, chairperson of Pond Inlet’s Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, said during the final day of a Nunavut Impact Review Board hearing on Saturday on Baffinland’s mine expansion plans. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Representatives from six of the seven communities affected by the proposed Mary River mine expansion expressed solidarity with Pond Inlet, a community that opposes the project, during the final day of a hearing into the matter.

“Our cultures and traditions are not for sale,” Enookie Inuarak, chairperson of Pond Inlet’s Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, said on Saturday afternoon at the Nunavut Impact Review Board hearing into Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s expansion plan.

Pond Inlet is the community closest to the mine. Its representatives have raised concerns that shipping from the existing mine site has already scared away narwhal and other marine mammals, disrupting Inuit hunting traditions.

One resident for each of the seven nearest hamlets spoke during closing remarks on the final day of the hearing, which began in January and was adjourned twice during the year.

Baffinland wants to build a 110-kilometre railway from its mine to Milne Inlet, double its iron ore shipments to 12 million tonnes per year, and increase shipping through the Tallurutiup Imanga national marine conservation area.

Inuarak said the proposal has caused division among families whose members took different sides, and that Baffinland uses a “threatening manner” when saying that it will go into care and maintenance if the expansion is not approved.

Hunters and Pond Inlet residents are “exhausted by constantly having to give evidence of impacts” on the environment, he said.

“Baffinland doesn’t understand the impacts their current project is having on Inuit hunting rights and culture,” Inuarak said. “Why should we [give] approval of Phase 2 before Baffinland starts addressing impacts?”

Because Saturday was the end of the hearing and the community roundtable, Baffinland did not get the opportunity to address comments made during the closing remarks.

Baffinland spokespereson Stuart Weinberg said the Ontario-based mining company is grateful to everyone who shared their perspectives during the hearing and respects the closing comments made by community representatives.

“We believe it is possible to create economic prosperity while protecting the environment and building stronger communities,” he said in an email.

Executives from the company say the Mary River mine operation needs to expand to be financially sustainable, and if the expansion doesn’t go through, it may have to temporarily shut down the mine, and workers will be laid off.

Clyde River Mayor Alan Cormack said the community is still concerned that the mine will have negative impacts on the environment.

“We are losing our culture because of Baffinland,” he said.

The Hamlet of Igloolik doesn’t support the expansion, mainly because it was unclear what the benefits to the community were, said Greg Morash, Igloolik’s chief administrative officer. But he said the community is willing to revisit this position if the company addresses the hamlet’s concerns.

“I think with a little bit more work, things can happen,” he said.

Sanirajak elder Enoki Irqittuq had similar comments. He said he doesn’t want Phase 2 to start right away, but if it is approved, then he wants a good working relationship with the company.

Irqittuq, also a former MLA, represented his community’s elders. The Hamlet of Sanirajak, meanwhile, supported the expansion earlier this week, along with Grise Fiord, and Arctic Bay the week prior.

Affected communities from north Baffin Island gave their final remarks during the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s hearing into Baffinland’s proposed Mary River mine expansion. Lucy Nungaq, a Grise Fiord hamlet councillor, said the hamlet supports Pond Inlet, even though it gave its support to the company earlier in the week. (Photo by David Venn)

But on Saturday, representatives for those communities said they did not support the expansion.

Lucy Nungaq, a Grise Fiord hamlet councillor, said the hamlet supports Pond Inlet, and that she believes the mining operation is affecting her community’s access to country food.

“We have to travel very far to hunt animals,” she said, noting that they have been seeing fewer seals each year. “I think it’s because of the ships that are going back and forth.”

Moses Koonoo, vice-chairperson of Arctic Bay’s Ikajutit Hunters and Trappers Organization, said the company should not rush into the expansion, and he has reservations about decreases in narwhal.

“Baffinland [is] not really prepared to take on Phase 2,” he said.

In an interview prior to closing statements, Baffinland vice-president Udloriak Hanson said that the company was thankful that so many people from different communities shared their comments and experiences.

“We’re quite happy. We’re quite pleased with the way it went this week,” Hanson said.

“We welcome all views but we were really appreciative of those talking about support for the project,” said Baffinland vice-president Megan Lord-Hoyle during that same interview.

When it comes to the impacts of shipping on narwhal in Eclipse Sound, Lord-Hoyle said she does think that the mining operation does have an effect on narwhal, but research conducted by a firm hired by the company shows that there are other reasons why there is decreasing narwhal in Pond Inlet over the last two years, such as the presence of killer whales and construction of a small craft harbour.

Baffinland has committed to not use icebreakers because that was something in its control to lessen impacts on narwhal, and there are other areas that the company can scale back operations if there are unexpected impacts, such as decreasing transits by using larger ships, she said.

“We want to keep working with those who still have concerns,” Lord-Hoyle said.

The Baffinland hearing was the largest of its kind held by the Nunavut Impact Review Board, with the most participants, said board chairperson Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq.

Governments and organizations involved in the review process originally had until Nov. 22 to provide closing statements, and Baffinland had until Dec. 6. Those deadlines have been pushed back by at least a few weeks, Kaluraq said.

After that, if the board believes it has all the necessary information to make its decision, it will begin to do so. There is no timeline for when its recommendation will be delivered.

The final recommendation will be provided to Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, who will either approve or reject the project.

Correction

This story has been updated to reflect the new timeline for the remaining review process.

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(39) Comments:

  1. Posted by Confused by the politics on

    A little confused here. Erik Ootoovak was the Chair of the MHTO and a rep for Baffin fisheries. He has some issues in his past but appears to be a reasonable, logical leader who distanced the MHTO from the Nuluujaaq Land Guardians due to their illegal actions seeking money from QIA while holding Baffinland hostage. Why is an Inuarak (the family that is and controls the ‘Guardians’) now the Chair? Are the MHTO and Guardians allies? That alliance would be extremely ill advised ethically and legally. I find a lot of irony in Enookie’s statement; the Inuaraks have always been for sale and are the wealthiest family in Pond Inlet for that reason. Baffinland has had many honored contracts previously with the family but when they staged their ‘protest,’ Baffinland refused to pay them off and that is why they speak out!

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    • Posted by Distant Relative on

      If you knew what that family had to do to survive 30 years ago (and the previous generation) you would eat your shoe and choke on it. If it wasn’t for the animals and their ability to survive none of them would be here.
      And after that, feeding entire communities with their catches and not keeping it to themselves, open doors, teaching, everything. You are the one seeing the dollar signs, shame on you!

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      • Posted by Northern Baffin on

        Kinda makes it sound like they are the only family to do it. 99% of hunters up here share their catch, not just them. How about i ask you, how much money have they made off their catches? How much do they sell to the HTO? 99% of hunter share what they have. Most hunters who give away their catch for free, and NOT sell it for cash.

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      • Posted by Listener on

        Bim should be forced to hold off until they male good on their previous promises and remediate the environmental concerns at hand.
        We have learned to be careful dealing with them because they are liars.

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      • Posted by It’s all relative on

        Dear ‘distant relative,’ are the points that ‘confused by the politics’ made false? What happened 30 years ago? Could you elaborate with some facts? Thank you.

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    • Posted by Batman on

      What do you mean for sale they have their own business and it’s completely different from mining sounds like ur far behind trying to survive pay check to pay check

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      • Posted by Uyagaachiaq (Polly Koutchak – Alaskan Inuit Elder) on

        I just sent a message to the newspaper about the expansion/extension of the mining company in Nunavik. Past history with the Alaskan environmental issues our indigenous peoples have faced, granting that mining a GREEN LIGHT in proceeding forward equates to a continual TOTAL DISREGARD & DISRESPECT for our collective/global indigenous peoples of the North. I mentioned in the message (which I hope the newspaper will publish) the TOTAL COLLAPSE of the SALMON species, this year of 2021, which our Alaskan Indigenous peoples has had a unique symbiotic relationship with for centuries. I urge my Nunavik peoples at the eastern edge of the Inuit Indigenous peoples to FULLY CONDEMN the EXPANSION EFFORTS of this toxic and death-blowing efforts of this mine.
        Quyaanaqpuk…
        Uyagaachiaq
        Alaskan Inuit Elder

  2. Posted by Dumbfounded on

    Well I guess the Inuit people that currently r employed at the mine will go back to Income Support n.poverty if Baffinland shuts down or goes into Care n Maintenance. The communities will lose out on benefits, more people crying for employment, programming, etc. Resource development can happen when done responsibly which includes protection of land, water, animals/mammals, etc. The Jnuit population needs employment to provide for their families, contribute to the overall Nunavut economy and enjoy their current lifestyle. This is the 21st century, no more living off the Government welfare systems, time for Inuit people to get educated, trained and employed.

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    • Posted by Uvanga on

      Yay!, more Inuit can join theNunavut Govt. we need more Inuit teachers, more Inuit nurses, more social workers, more life skills instructors more Inuit pride

  3. Posted by Nelson on

    I think when the community nearest to the site is saying no, we have to respect that. We all have to say no to this.

    It’s so easy from communities farther away, from the QIA office in Iqaluit, and from boardrooms in Oakville to say yeah, let’s do it. Let’s rake it in. We live with all the benefits and none of the downsides.

    But if Pond Inlet, after weighing benefits (jobs and cash) and environmental impacts, is saying (along with several partners) that it’s a bad idea, we have to listen. Otherwise this just becomes yet another decision made far away that is imposed on communities. And are we still wanting to be doing that?

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  4. Posted by Last Chance! on

    Sorry to disappoint those who want just a ‘little more work’ from Baffinland but this is an all or nothing decision. The investors are done waiting and yes, care and maintenance is a real possibility if phase 2 doesn’t go through and the iron ore price stays low. It is not an empty threat, it’s basic business. The mine will be shuttered, there will be no jobs, no royalties and no second chances. It’s time for a decision, life with Baffinland or life witbout.

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  5. Posted by Aputi on

    When agnico eagle went to kivalliq to start a mime, I never lost my culture, and people started making money instead of living off welfare,

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    • Posted by snapshot on

      Marine mammals and land animals.

      When noise is made in water the measurement is called a underwater acoustics.

      Different mammals have different decibel limits before their eardrums rupture.

      Ore carrier ships make 120 decibels (120 dB). Fuel tank ships and icebreakers make 135dB.

      When icebreakers are involve the crazy noise goes over the top breaking ice and animals start to avoid it, for their survival. The noise goes to the bottom and comes back up to the top and gets bounce back down to the bottom of the ocean. The sound travels farther and there is a lot of ice in Pond Inlet area during that season. Therefore affecting the area from the beginning to the end of the shipping season.
      Now just imagine many many ships making noise all day everyday till the ice comes again. This is already happening in Pond Inlet.

      Here is some information from oceanexplorer

      “Ocean acoustics is the study of sound and its behavior in the sea. When underwater objects vibrate, they create sound-pressure waves that alternately compress and decompress the water molecules as the sound wave travels through the sea. Sound waves radiate in all directions away from the source like ripples on the surface of a pond.”

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      • Posted by Nothing but noise on

        How much noise was made all summer by pile driving the dock at Pond Inlet? I guess not enough because we should still blame Baffinland for the low narwhale numbers in the area this year. I’m sure driving piles is much quieter than breaking ice or regular shipping noise. Oh wait, Baffinland delayed their shipping season because the MHTO asked for them not to break ice and they complied. Well I guess the ore carriers must be extremely noisy to have more affect on marine life than the construction of the dock.

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  6. Posted by John K on

    No one is buying our culture, so it doesn’t matter if it’s “fOr SaLe”. We’re the only ones not willing to come to the table to argue in good faith. We’re just looking for more people to blame for the things we can’t change.

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  7. Posted by Truestory on

    And when the Northwest passage opens, more and more ships in Nunavut waters. Pond Inlet won’t be the only community affected when the N.W.P opens. Phase 2 expansion is an awesome opportunity for the Inuit. Jobs, training, etc. would be beneficial. Just think of Inuit engineers. And besides, B.I.M. is a Canadian owned company.

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    • Posted by actually… on

      BIM is a company based in Canada. Its mostly owned by European and Chinese investors. Its not ‘Canadian owned’.

      Phase 2 will reduce the overall number of jobs at the project, not create more. BIM says they’ll hire lots more Inuit if the project is approved. Unfortunately, BIM has made that promise time and again and failed to really deliver.

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      • Posted by Bad White man on

        Unfortunately it’s not BIM to blame when it comes to Inuit employment.
        Anyone know the stats on how many Inuit were imported by baffinland pre-covid and how many returned after being paid to stay home?
        How many just took the money and never returned?
        The opportunity is there if they want it. Have met many incredible locals who I’m proud to work beside.
        Would love to see more.

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        • Posted by actually… on

          It’s not about finding someone to blame over Inuit employment numbers, it’s about being realistic in expectations and promises. What BIM is promising in unrealistic and manipulative.

          The reasons for low employment numbers are complex and can’t be blamed on a specific institution or group of people. However, BIM has been around long enough to know what is and what isn’t feasible. And what they’re promising is not feasible.

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      • Posted by Truestory on

        I met the owner of the mine. His from Ontariio. I shook his hand. Gave thanks to him for giving me an opportunity to become an apprentice electrician. Did you ever shake his hand?

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  8. Posted by Unknown on

    It will not be known if mining activity permanently decreases traditional hunting and culture until after approval. There is no scientific way of calculating that risk. Same for mines and caribou near Rankin also declining. Inuit are trading their old way of life for money now and Western lifestyle. If the mine makes hunting impossible, there is no way to stop the owners from continuing because the Inuit are giving up the RED BUTTON.
    This is a huge risk.

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  9. Posted by Amio man on

    One of my friends ask if he uses traditional knowledge on finding his way home. He said nope I use a GPS. Technology is making us lose our traditional way of life more than the mines do. Why is no one talking about technology when that is the culprit?

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  10. Posted by Old timer on

    It just big money for housing rent it will go max and it hard to keep up and trying to buy high prices food so it is better to just say no because all the money make will just go to housing corp.

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  11. Posted by Angry Hunter on

    I notice is that when hunters get a big catch a d they give it out for free to their communities. The person might sell it when they have it for free. Or when they sell a whole caribou for $350 that will encourage over hunting. Why is it socially acceptable when it is not how our culture to do so?

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  12. Posted by Bob on

    Do you think it is a good idea for the planet to mine coal that will be used to produce dirty energy? A little two faced protesting dirty energy pipelines elsewhere when you have nothing to gain, as opposed to agreeing to dirty energy when you have something to gain. I know its confusing times, so if it is all about jobs and money, produce less by protesting the expansion and drive the mines value down, then buy the mine from the mostly foreign owners at discount prices. You then would need to produce less.

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    • Posted by No coal, just iron on

      Coal? Nooooooo. Nothing to do with coal. This is the opposite. High grade iron ore from North Baffin is much cleaner than the cheap fines found elsewhere in the world as it needs significantly less coal to coke it (brings up the carbon content) and can easily be smelted in electric furnaces. Environmentally this makes it extremely desirable. If the mine can reduce its own CO2 footprint (by use of a railroad and renewable energy sources etc.) Baffinland’s iron ore would be the most environmentally desirable product to make steel worldwide. Mary River mine is not a coal mine, it is the cleanest iron ore mine on the planet and could become even cleaner if allowed to.

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      • Posted by Cleanest on

        Sure it would the cleanest mine in the world if it was not an open pit mine. If it didn’t generate all that dust then, it could be the cleanest.

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        • Posted by Uvanga on

          The dust issue is in plans and the rail road would also reduce dust

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    • Posted by No coal, just iron on

      Mines can be a dirty, environmentally disastrous expedition. Iron mines have proven to be hazardous all over the world especially when tailings ponds are used. There are no tailings at Mary River. There are no byproducts or hazardous waste associated with extracting the ore. Mention a cleaner iron mine in a reply and I would be glad to research its practices.

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      • Posted by Uvanga on

        There was a tailings pond in Nanisivik and Baffinland has none. I believe the cause of no whales or marine mammal is due to the pond inlet marine facility being built. An elderly man was on taussunni the other day said that even before outside influence, caribou were not around for years. He said he never ate caribou until he was 16. I also remember Mr. inuaraq the elder saying that the whales will following the ships and people would hunt them on the cracks that the ships made. Lots of factors to consider. The elder on the radio also said we Inuit are also over hunting with with high powered machines and weapons and advised us to be true to ourselves.

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  13. Posted by Community member Baffin on

    The title is correct, “Community reps oppose mine expansion at final day of Baffinland hearing” That does not mean the entire community members. There are people in town that WANT to work, they are just not heard. Are these “reps” speaking on behalf of themselves or actually representing the community?
    Why is there no community organizations representing the Inuit in Pond Inlet that don’t want to sustenance hunt to support themselves. Welfare won’t buy you boats or gas to hunt. most people in town who have the means to hunt, snowmobiles, boats, ATV’s have jobs to be able to get them. Where is that thought lost? just like there are people who do not want to work and would rather sustenance hunt, there ARE people who would rather work instead of sustenance hunt. Times are changing.

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  14. Posted by Aputi on

    They don’t use chemicals to extract the ore, one of the highest grade of iron ore in the world, all they do is drill, blast,haul it, crush it and transport it to port side till shipping comes,,

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  15. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Going into care and maintenance isn’t a threat its a reality and the sooner the North Baffin communities digest this reality the better. Since the histrionics began Baffinland has been clear. This project cannot make money at its current level of production. If the communities don’t want the production increase and attendant required infrastructure fine and dandy, Baffinland will shut down. But please stop accusing the company of threatening anyone. These are the cold harsh economic realities of iron ore mining.

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    • Posted by lulz on

      The company would have plenty of money if they hadn’t already contracted a bunch of companies and purchased materials to build Phase 2. They’re in serious debt and a bunch of companies have filed liens against them in the Nunavut Court of Justice.

      This isn’t the ‘cold hard reality’ of iron ore mining. It’s an incompetent company.

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  16. Posted by Concerned on

    These naysayers have had no meeting in community about what people want . It’s just there point of view . How about our kids and grandkids this is 2021 they eat pizza . Which soon they will not afford this is bs most people want to work . Stop listening to naysayers go with flow nunavut

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  17. Posted by Echomavunga Emaak on

    Inookie, there seem to be another family who has a big job with Baffinland. You are in different direction from the young man. The mining company is very big in Baffin. I am just hopping the other young man might have rights too to keep his job as he knew his job so well and he welcomed me with respect manner. I am so proud to be an Inuk to witness two very strong Inuk’s who are so strong to have such a big jobs. I would have love to work @ Mary River mining still today. We Inuit would love to work too. If, Mary River will not be mining anymore. Maybe perhaps up in your area wouldn’t mind using a big building can be used for the homeless people instead of sending them to Iqaluit. More Inuit would not have to be in a Welfare. Have a good day Inookie.

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