Greenpeace protest puts opposition to Baffinland mine expansion on world stage

 Environmental group said it was acting in solidarity with local Inuit groups

Greenpeace Luxembourg activists gather in front of ArcelorMittal’s headquarters in Luxembourg last year to protest Baffinland’s proposed expansion of its Mary River mine. (Photo courtesy of Greenpeace/Anais Hector)

By Lindsay Campbell
Special to Nunatsiaq News

While a public hearing on Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s expansion project is on hold, a Greenpeace protest at the headquarters of the mining company’s co-owner in Luxembourg has stoked fires of opposition to the development proposal.

On Wednesday, eight activists from the environmental advocacy organization picketed outside ArcelorMittal headquarters, a parent company and primary international ore supplier of the Nunavut mining enterprise.

Hoisting a banner that read “Respect Indigenous Rights,” along with an illustration by Indigenous artist Christi Belcourt that said “Respect Inuit or Leave,” Greenpeace representatives said the protest was an act of solidarity with local Inuit groups, like the Nuluujaat Land Guardians.

Alex Speers-Roesch, a Greenpeace Canada spokesperson, said the organization wanted to offer support after watching the situation escalate in February when the Nuluujaat Land Guardians faced an injunction for blocking access to the tote road and airstrip at Baffinland’s Mary River mine.

The group, comprised of Inuit hunters from Pond Inlet, are still under the injunction. Speers- Roesch said the organization reached out to the Nuluujaat Land Guardians to see how it could help garner a larger audience.

“It seemed like concerns of the Inuit were not being addressed by the company,” he said. “ArcelorMittal has a lot of influence over what Baffinland does and so we want to make sure they are fully aware of the bad behaviour of this mining company and help ensure a good outcome that respects human rights and protects the Arctic environments.”

The Mary River mine generates 24 per cent of Nunavut’s gross domestic product and employs 288 Inuit. Baffinland’s Phase 2 expansion project aims to double the mine’s output of iron ore at Mary River from six million tonnes to 12 million tonnes per year and build a railroad to a port at Milne Inlet that would allow more ships to transport larger quantities of iron ore to market.

The existing mine and the expansion proposal have faced concerns from the Inuit and environmentalists as the mine is situated near a marine conservation area that is also narwhal calving grounds and harvesting areas for Inuit communities. The proposed railroad would run through a caribou migration route and opponents say the mine’s expansion would further disrupt Inuit culture that is rooted in the land, hunting and dependent critically on healthy Arctic wildlife populations.

Lori Idlout, a lawyer representing the Nuluujaat Land Guardians, said she feels Greenpeace’s protest provides greater visibility to Inuit voices that have been drowned out and excluded in the mining company’s plan to expand.

“People should know that when the land guardians first protested, it was because they weren’t being heard,” she said. “The core of what the land guardians have maintained is protecting the environment, protecting the wildlife — it’s literally in their name.”

Baffinland is in the midst of an application to the Nunavut Impact Review Board on its Phase 2 expansion project. A public hearing on that application resumed in April, but was cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Iqaluit.  In an e-mailed statement from Heather Smiles, Baffinland’s manager of stakeholder relations, she said that the company respects the right to free speech and peaceful, legal protests.

“Baffinland is committed to operating in a responsible manner and in accordance with all applicable regulations,” Smiles wrote.

Greenpeace representatives said that it would continue to amplify Inuit voices and environmental concerns, as the situation around the expansion proposal evolves.



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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Jobs not theatre! on

    Alternative Title: Greenpeace find way to monetize Inuit protest.

    Now that we all know this protest is more about a couple of dominant families in Hall Beach and Pond Inlet who are seeking to get a little more cream in their coffee than about the environment, when are FINALLY going to see the Nunavut media corpse report on the turfing of the duly elected Pond Inlet member from QIA’s board and their quiet replacement?

    Kinda significant, no?

    • Posted by Stuck in between on

      I think I agree, but your sarcasm is confusing. If you are bringing notice to the wrongfull firing of Pond’s elected QIA rep, and the hiring of a quiet replacement for him, then you are spot on.

      Green peace hugged the northern world appologising for the seal thing, globally, years ago. Perhaps the next commentor missed that article.

      Im just glad that there are people in that area who care enough to spend their time infront of that company’s building. And if they are getting paid then good!

  2. Posted by Skeptical Settler on

    It’s nice to hear that Greenpeace cares about the Inuit. Because Greenpeace’s aggressive campaign to ban the commercial sale of seal skins, which they knew would hurt Inuit communities the most, would have convinced me otherwise. It’d be nice too if Greenpeace could acknowledge that.

      • Posted by Information Ecosphere on

        Why you ask?

        People are confident here in this anonymous and impermanent forum to take higher risks in the kinds of things they are willing to say. For example, this news source would not dare say that our MP was drunk when she went on her recent twitter rant against Yvonne Jones. Yet to many who observed this seemed obvious. Assuming it was true, the only way this fact, which mattered in my opinion, was included in the discourse was through comments that could be made by people who didn’t need to assume any risk in making saying so. So, at times these variables can be beneficial.

        On the other hand, and at other times it can lead to this; lazy, self-righteous pontificating that does not feel bound by any duty or awareness to ensure it has contact with reality.

        In part it this happens because it is already certain that it has cornered reality, which in its laziness and hubris positions reality in relation to consensus opinion and to what it considers moral ‘rightness’.

    • Posted by Time to Move On on

      Greenpeace apologized quite some time ago. Regardless, fur is an almost dead industry with producers around the world stopping use – see Canada Goose just last week as a recent example. Consumers’ tastes of have moved on.

      Trappers need to stop mourning what is dead and adapt to a new market.

  3. Posted by Amused Eskimo819er on

    Hooray!!… for vaccines.
    Hooray!!… for Greenpeace.
    Hooray!!.. for Maktak.?


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