Decision to resume mine expansion review process made “against our wishes”: Nunavut mayors, hunters
North Baffin reps oppose Nunavut Impact Review Board’s proposed timelines for Baffinland phase two proposal
The mayors and hunters of communities affected by Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed expansion of its Mary River mine are not in favour of resuming regulatory meetings until face-to-face meetings can take place.
In a letter submitted to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the mayors of Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Sanirajak, Arctic Bay and Clyde River and the chairs of the Hunters and Trappers Organizations in those communities write that there are “serious problems” with the proposed timelines for the review of phase two.
“It remains our position that proceeding now, when full face-to-face meetings is impossible, will be a breach of procedural fairness owed to our residents and members,” the letter states.
“We would be proceeding in protest and under duress if pressed to resume technical meetings.”
Technical meetings were originally set to be held in March, but were cancelled due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
The meetings were supposed to resume April 24 via teleconference but were cancelled again because of opposition from interveners.
On July 10, Dan Vandal, the federal minister for Northern Affairs, sent a letter to Karen Costello, the NIRB’s executive director, proposing that “it is appropriate to recommence the formal reconsideration at this time.”
Then, in a July 29 letter, Costello wrote “the board has concluded that combinations of in-person and video conference meetings, teleconference sessions, and the receipt of written and video submissions by the parties are the best alternatives to the in-person attendance of all participants.”
In its letter, the NIRB proposes the following dates for the next steps in the review process:
- Aug. 31 to Sept. 3: Technical meeting via teleconference
- Sept. 28 to Sept. 30: Community roundtable in Pond Inlet with hubs in Iqaluit and the south
- Sept. 30 to Oct. 1: Pre-hearing conference in Pond Inlet with hubs in Iqaluit and the south
The letter from Costello states that Pond Inlet will operate as the central hub for the in-person meetings. That means the community roundtable and pre-hearing conference will be chaired by the NIRB in Pond Inlet, Costello wrote.
For parties that are unable to travel to Nunavut, the board will establish one or two central hubs outside Nunavut that will connect virtually to the Nunavut hub.
Baffinland will have Nunavut-based company representatives attend the in-person sessions in Nunavut, and its southern-based staff will participate by virtual means, the letter states.
Travel restrictions put in place during the pandemic bar most non-residents from entering the territory and require anyone entering Nunavut to spend 14 days in an isolation hub in southern Canada.
Prior to the meetings, parties are also asked to submit updates to their previous technical comments and final written submissions by Aug. 11.
Baffinland has also filed a motion with the NIRB to reconvene the final public hearing on phase two on Oct. 30 for two weeks.
A July 24 letter from Baffinland CEO Brian Penney states that further delaying the review process would be a “breach of procedural fairness.”
Decision was made “against our wishes”
The letter from the North Baffin mayors states that communities will be unable to submit updated technical comments or prepare for the meetings for August. Instead, they suggest that technical comments be requested “no sooner than mid-September” and the technical meetings be scheduled in October at the earliest.
The mayors say that they need more time to consider the newly signed Inuit Certainty Agreement between Baffinland and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
The letter also states that recent correspondence from the NIRB, Baffinland and the QIA has not been provided in Inuktitut.
They also note that many staff, consultants and board members are away on summer holidays and out on the land for the summer.
“To be clear, we do not support resuming the review process at this time.… The decision was made against our wishes and without consulting us,” the letter states.
These concerns are echoed in letters posted to the NIRB’s registry by Oceans North and the World Wildlife Fund.
In an email sent on July 31, Andrew Dumbrille of WWF Canada states that the WWF is “very concerned about the proposed process outlined by NIRB.”
In his email, Dumbrille references a letter issued by the NIRB on April 24. That letter stated, “the board will solicit comment from prospective participants to ensure their views are fully considered before charting a path forward for this assessment.”
“It was our understanding, based on the last correspondence of April 24th, that NIRB would be asking for feedback, especially from affected communities, on the process for re-starting the phase 2 hearings. That’s not what NIRB has done. Why is that?” Dumbrille wrote.