Environment minister rejects calls to investigate dust from Mary River mine

Mine critics say they might take further legal action

Baffinland Iron Mining Corp.’s Milne Inlet port, as seen in August 2014. The Government of Nunavut has rejected calls for it to investigate dust issues stemming from the operation. (File photo)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nunavut’s environment minister won’t investigate the spread of iron ore dust from the Mary River mine, say a group of North Baffin residents who oppose Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed expansion.

According to a Thursday news release from the Nuluujaat Land Guardians, the 11 residents who had called for the investigation received a response from Joe Savikataaq, who is Nunavut’s environment minister as well as premier, saying the Government of Nunavut will not proceed with an investigation because the mine operation is allowed by federal permit.

“The applicants expressed regret that the GN was not prepared to review impacts of iron ore dust outside the lands licensed under [Baffinland],” states a news release from the group.

The Nuluujaat Land Guardians recently blockaded the Mary River mine.

On March 19, some of the protesters and their supporters from Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay applied for the government to investigate Baffinland, alleging that iron dust from the mine operation is harming plants and wildlife.

The group also maintains that releasing iron ore dust is not allowed under Baffinland’s project certificate. They say they may take further legal action.

Savikataaq did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Heather Smiles, manager of stakeholder relations for Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., said the company “is not in any position to comment on any decision by the Government of Nunavut on this matter.”

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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northerner on

    They are desperately trying to find something. They know that Baffinland has met almost all of NIRB’s requirements to be approved for the expansion.

    Unfortunately for those hunters they really don’t understand what they are getting into and I sure would hope that lawyer somewhere calms them down because at this point they are digging themselves a hole.

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  2. Posted by Non-Sequitur? on

    I’d really like to hear more about this refusal. To say the “Government of Nunavut will not”… investigate “because the mine operation is allowed by federal permit” doesn’t seem to give much information or rationale. In fact, on the surface, it doesn’t appear to be relevant at all. What am I missing?

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  3. Posted by Good for the Minister. on

    Good for the Minister. It’s just dust. Inert, non-toxic dust.
    We have allowed a handful of self-interested people to kill a mine representing almost a quarter of Nunavut’s economy and hundreds of jobs for iron ore dust that wouldn’t hurt a fly.
    Now we can go back to whining about how “poor” we are.
    How pathetic! This madness has to stop.

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    • Posted by josywales on

      Are you serious or just not informed? Dust will kill off plant life if enough is deposited on them as they cannot breathe, it will also drive off wildlife as this stuff is foreign to their breathing, they need clean air to live. Depositing of dust on the ice will also affect sea mammals in terms of what they are eating. The dust particles will settle on the ocean bottom where small animals live and eat (some you cannot even see) also killing off their ability to produce their breathing systems. Fish will have move or die off due to their gills being dusted. There are other big impacts to humans.

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      • Posted by Doesn’t Phase 2 Solve this? on

        I understand that dust is a concern. But doesn’t Phase 2 address the dust issue? By moving fine crushing indoors, where all dust is captured and not released into the enviornment. And by moving to a rail system moving large rock to the Port, reducing all of the dust created by trucks on the roads. We all know that all of our communities are filled with dust in the summer due to vehicles on the road kicking up the dust. By going to rail, ir is steel on steel, and no dust being generated. Over a 70% reduction in dust. Isn’t this exactly what everyone is whining about? Why are we not supporting phase 2. All of the economic benefits, on top of additional beneifts to our comunities. I agree that we still need to keep up a fight with QIA and NTI to get a share of the royalties (over 60 million n a legacy fund) but this has nothing to do with Baffinland. Childcare Centres in all communities, chilcare subsidies for all employees, 40 new employees hired in every community every year……these are big comitments. Why are we oppossed again?

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        • Posted by Hunter’s Wife on

          I can remind you…
          .
          Because since the early revenue phase communities were supposed to get training facilities, and all the above mentioned benefits dangled in the air. What happened, nothing. Phase 1, promised training, facilities, ect. Again nothing. Phase 2, promised daycares and training facilities…
          .
          What we did get, next to no employment, no training, no building to train anyone in for anything. No funding for training facilities. Not even call backs on repeat applications for janitorial employment.
          .
          We did get an ocean that is usually very abundant, barren like hunting in fresh water. We did get dirty seal holes fatrther than ever from the commuity. We got skinny whales, and scarce seals and fish.
          .
          We did get a company playing community reps like a fiddle, and shipping up railway parts, contracting companies to do the work, and ignoring our problems and protests. Making a joke of the Land Claims Agreement. The reason we even have this land to live off of, and share with Canada. The process was supposed to benefit us. This mine was supposed to benefit us like Nasivvik did. But it is not like it in any way.
          .
          It may be a very large part of the money being produced in Nunavut, but it is all in the hands of the shareholders and top exectutives.
          .
          If phase 2 drives off all the caribou, then what do we have? More promises of things we never see anyway. When the protesters were at the mine, again we were promised jobs and training facilities to get them to go away. First and second time, bad on you. Third time, bad on us. Nunavutmuit in communities arent buying the story anymore, and I for one am not willing to give up anymore for Baffinland.
          .
          Either they show us that they can operate better as they are and make it better, or we are suckers for buying the soothing story they keep giving us, and loose the land animals too.
          .
          Many people in the south tend to be very far removed from hunting and gathering as a primary source of nourishment, so I will never be able to convince you how necessary and important it is for Inuit. We are zero generations removed from our routes of surviving on the land. We still happily make winter cloths from untreated animal skins and eat raw meats for the heat it makes in us.
          I shouldnt have to depend on store bought cloths and food up here. Go broke and no animals around. And I know my feelings are the same as many. Thats why.

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    • Posted by iThink on

      While I am generally supportive of the mine and tend to lean your way on this, we should recognize the usefulness of an investigation into this question. If you are right then let the facts come out in a formal investigation. This would be very helpful in moving forward. On the other hand, casually dismissing the issue creates the appearance that unfavourable information is being suppressed. This plays directly into the narratives and suspicions of those who sincerely believe that the iron dust is creating harm. We need to be thoughtful about this if we want move forward and build consensus.

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      • Posted by Anon on

        I think you’re absolutely right. There would probably be less public concern about caribou if the GN would let their scientists actually explain their concerns. Right now the GN has ‘no concerns’ with Phase 2, even though their scientists disagree with Baffinland’s claims that it will have no impact on caribou.

        Let the scientists speak at these meetings. Get to the bottom of these concerns and find ways to address them.

        If they keep doing what they’re doing — so obviously bending over backwards to give mining companies anything they want — its going to keep raising suspicion and creating opposition.

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  4. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    Maybe consider the absence of caribou on Baffin Island, to what I understand from respected elders is the result of a normal migration change.
    As well lets not forget overhunting and carcasses left on the land with only the back fat removed.
    Both factors long before the mine came along.

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  5. Posted by George on

    Every community in Nunavut has problems with dust. Dust is dust , and I don’t like breathing the stuff after the sewage truck has dribbled down the road.

    But, are we going to have an “environmental review” for every community? You know – the places where people actually LIVE full-time?

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  6. Posted by Me on

    Inuit don’t recall “phase 2” agreement, savikataaq should submit copy of agreement to the Inuit , Paul Okalik, or Johnny Mike previously signed agreement would be great

  7. Posted by Me on

    GN will cover clean up tab once bffnlnd leaves. Tauvungalimaq tikuaqtausimaniatuq pijutigilugu Nunavut Nunanga

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