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

A proposal from the Nunavut Impact Review Board to recommence the review process for Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s phase two expansion is drawing backlash from the mayors of the five communities affected by the mine. Technical meetings, pictured here, were adjourned in November and have not resumed. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

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.

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by Good Stand on

    Good. NIRB has always had a very lobbied attitude towards these things. Lots of times changing around meetings in communities and ignoring public concerns. Doing them in times when most are out on the land. Making things sound like one and acting on another…

    As for QIA, what a wash! We have all seen the tricks and trends over the years. Where money is flaunted and how it is used, or given away, or kept in self interest. Or trickeled into communities in the form of nonsense programs. More of that cash spent on paying paper filers and their housing than the actual recipients and beneficiaries. Glad the north baffin communities are taking a together stand on this.

    And another note, no one in NU can work at the mine! its one thing to shell out money and creat the great depression of dependancy and feelings of uselessness. People need to work, want and need to work. No one should get used to sitting and paid for nothing. it causes mental health issues and family violance. these are not rocket science. This should be taken slow, very slow. We know all the railway gear has already been shipped north without approval, am i right? Glad for you north baffin! Stick to what you feel is best!

    • Posted by Tftcmtgh on

      Not sure that I agree with everything that you wrote, Good Stand, but, I truly appreciate what you wrote. Eloquent and honest. What more can you do.

  2. Posted by Northern Guy on

    The position of these communities is nonsensical. It could be well over another year before large scale face-to-face meetings will be permitted. Do they simply expect Baffinalnd to hang fire bleeding money until then? Talk about “procedural unfairness”! The communities will just have to suck it up and accept the limitations that Covid has imposed on the rest of us!

    • Posted by WB on

      Interesting. So the poor community might suffer negative effects due to a rushed review process needs to ‘suck it up’. Why don’t the billionaire shareholders suck it up instead? They’ve clearly got money to spare.

      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        Nothing rushed about this. This has been ongoing for at least 4 years now. How much time do the HTOs and communities need to prepare and why does that necessitate face-to-face meetings?

    • Posted by from inside a VPN on

      I agree totally with Northern Guy. This is so nonsensical. The Hamlets and and HTOs in the 5 affected communities already have everything they want

      Have they not bothered to look at the Inuit Certainty Agreement between our Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the Baffinland? All the railway issues are resolved, all the monitoring issues are resolved, all the language and culture issues are resolved. All of the 40 to 50 disputed issues are resolved except for 5 that are related to marine shipping and the NIRB can easily rule on those at a public hearing and set the appropriate terms and conditions.

      In addition, QIA and Baffinland are going to put huge amounts of money and jobs and benefits worth millions into those communities because of the ICA. But no, these hamlets and HTOs want to throw that money away and hurt their own people.

      It’s not just Baffinland that wants the process to move forward, QIA wants the NIRB to move forward and the federal minister wants the NIRB to move forward. There is no need for another Technical Hearing, just go directly to a Final Public Hearing with a combination of in-person and video conferencing and then approve the final terms and conditions. Get it done, probably October is the best time.

    • Posted by Flip the script on

      It is so typical and biased to think that communities should have to suck it up and deal with the implications of the COVID-19 crisis and that huge corporations and millionaires should have their hands held through this time and be given exactly what they are asking for. This is a terrible time for everyone, individuals and corporations alike. But if every HTO and hamlet can agree on something, the company should respect that and accept the situation for what it is. Ultimately if they move forward to a hearing and every community arrives unprepared, inevitably the result of the last public hearing will repeat itself and it will have been a colossal waste of time and money.

      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        The HTOs and Hamlets have had many many months if not years to prepare. The core issues have not changed and simply because a bunch of NGOs with deep pockets have convinced them to take this stand everything must, once again grind to a halt? As I said before, nonsense!

  3. Posted by Qallunaat Imperial Authority on

    The most affected communities deserve our support as they will have to live with the affects of this project. The pandemic is beyond everyone’s control so take your time as no one will buy much in the middle of Covid-2 anyway.

  4. Posted by Miner 49er on

    How about a new plan for Mary River.
    1. Get the southern labour out of Mary River.
    2. Bring up mine trainers, after they have spent 2 weeks in Isolation Hubs.
    3. Re-test the mine trainers after they arrive at Mary River.
    4. Re-start Mary River operations on a small scale, using only Inuit labour.
    5. increase operations at Mary River only as Inuit are able to do the work properly.
    This way we will at least get the jobs.

    • Posted by Observer on

      You expecting Inuit employees to become certified engineers, geologists, lab techs, millwrights, heavy equipment mechanics, welders, and explosives technicians in a few weeks?

    • Posted by Dunning-Kruger on

      The Dunning-Kruger effect is a widespread affliction here in Nunavut, and sadly one that rarely gets acknowledged or discussed, probably because it would offend the sensibilities (or more accurately, the fantasies) of those whose sense of reality is so grounded in it.
      If you’ve ever done any kind of education in mine training for example, you would have a clearer and more realistic idea of how far behind our population is in terms of its skills development and readiness for higher skilled positions in a mine camp, remembering that the camp simply wouldn’t function without those skills and experience. The idea that all this can be reduced to just training people and “poof” like magic it will be run by Nunavummiut is an appealing fantasy I am sure, but it is about as removed from reality as Nunavut launching its own homemade space probes sometime next week.

  5. Posted by Curious on

    Just wondering, but if they need “more time” to study the Baffinland-QIA agreement, what exactly have they been doing in the month since it was announced?

    • Posted by WB on

      The letter’s pretty clear that people are on holidays or out hunting.

  6. Posted by Jim on

    I wonder at what point this gained the legal right to proceed without the approval of the affected Nunavummiut? I’m sure there is a lot of money invested but, I always thought the local Inuit were in charge? I don’t fully understand corporate actions and rationale. I assume it’s ultimately based on profits and that appears to be the basis of our proceeding. Animal + land ramifications are a secondary consideration now.

    • Posted by iWonder too on

      I wonder, I wonder… I also wonder at the kinds of dramas and conspiracies people dream up. It seems lack knowledge and and understanding are what cause people to fill the informational void with these voodoos of the mind.

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