Intervenors weigh in on when to reconvene Baffinland hearing

Inuit organizations call for one-year adjournment, while Government of Nunavut wants speedy resolution

By Elaine Anselmi

Regulatory talks about Baffinland’s proposed expansion of its Mary River mine should proceed “as soon as possible,” or face delays of up to one year, depending on which affected party you’re speaking to.

Intervenors recently submitted their comments on the matter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which must decide how to proceed after its hearing ground to a halt on Nov. 6, after Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said that concerns raised by Inuit hadn’t been adequately addressed.

While agreeing there were unresolved concerns to be addressed, the Government of Nunavut said the hearing should be rescheduled for the first available date, “unless another party can substantiate why it should be delayed longer.”

The GN noted the adjournment has already led to layoffs and cautioned that the mine plays a significant role in the territorial economy.

Already, Baffinland says it has laid off 586 contractors, including 96 Inuit workers, “due to the uncertainty of Phase 2 permit approvals.” No direct employees of Baffinland have been affected.

“On a yearly basis, the Mary River project accounts for 12 per cent of Nunavut’s total gross domestic product and employs approximately 470 Nunavummiut,” said the territorial government’s submission.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization of Pond Inlet was firm in its request for an adjournment for at least one year.

“We feel a process outlined by the NIRB, commencing with a request from parties to identify the major outstanding issues could be a useful starting point,” wrote chairperson Eric Ootoovak.

He proposed an additional technical meeting and a conference prior to the final hearing, so that commitments made on the outstanding issues can be tracked and those that remain can be identified. This was also proposed by several intervenors.

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association said a delay of one year, or more if the north Baffin communities request it, would be needed.

The beneficiary organization likened the process so far to regulatory talks over seismic testing near Clyde River and the Northern Gateway pipeline in British Columbia—two cases in which development projects were ultimately struck down because of a failed duty to consult and inform the affected people.

“QIA submits that, whichever alternative the board chooses, the important thing is to ensure that there is sufficient time for the proponent to substantially address the concerns consistently raised by Inuit parties regarding current key gaps in the technical record,” states QIA’s 26-page submission.

“Failure to do so is not in the public interest, as it would breach the constitutionally protected rights of the Inuit.”

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said that an adjournment from nine to 12 months should be enough for Baffinland to provide further evidence of its interpretation of significant impacts and consideration of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. All these materials should be translated into Inuktut, it said.

“It is in the interest of all parties to ensure a full and proper review, based on adequate engagement with Inuit and complete evidence,” NTI President Aluki Kotierk wrote.

“This process must be robust and provide Inuit communities a deep and thorough understanding of the proposal and its impacts, in order that appropriate terms and conditions and mitigation measures can be developed for the project. “

The Igloolik working group, representing members of the community and the hamlet council, requested additional participant funding for intervenors in its written comments, noting that capacity is stretched for the five northern communities to properly review a project of this scale.

Prior to the hearing’s suspension, the group asked that a decision on the project be delayed until representatives from north Baffin communities had a chance to speak in person. They received confirmation of funding for such a meeting shortly before the hearing began.

The working group also suggested Baffinland’s production remain at 6 million tonnes per year—an increase from its 4.2 million tonne allowance, which expires at the end of this year. This, the working group said, was to protect jobs.

The Government of Canada, collectively representing all interested departments, did not recommend a length of time for the adjournment. But it did advise that Baffinland needs to further engage with Inuit intervenors.

Zacharias Kunuk of Nunavut Independent Television wrote that conversations need to take place between Baffinland and the intervenors on a wide range of issues, from how best to measure the mine expansion’s impacts to the project’s incorporation of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.

“These are fundamental issues, not only for the Phase 2 Proposal, but also for the entire Mary River Project and for other development projects in Nunavut,” wrote Kunuk. “Without a greater degree of common ground and consensus on these issues, we are concerned that any resumed public hearings could remain difficult and might not result on an agreed path forward.”

Oceans North deferred suggesting a timeline to the affected Inuit parties but warned that late changes in the project will require time for reconsideration.

“Evidence at the hearing indicates that core aspects of the project proposal have been verbally modified by the proponent,” wrote Chris Debicki, vice-president of policy development and counsel. “Evidence at the hearing suggests that the project scope as defined requires additional clarification or amendment.”

The World Wildlife Fund of Canada also said some big outstanding questions must be addressed, such as the total number of train and ship transits, as well as the actual tonnage planned for production. In his comment, Andrew Dumbrille, WWF-Canada’s shipping expert, wrote that a reset is needed to the extent possible.

The Hamlet of Pond Inlet proposed an adjournment of five to six months, with a hearing in the first couple weeks of April, which would allow time for the communities to properly consider the documents Baffinland submitted shortly before the November hearing.

It also proposed a delay of up to one year, which would allow for research to be completed on outstanding issues such as the impact of increased shipping on marine mammals.

Baffinland has until Nov. 22 to respond to the written comments.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Ray Donovan on

    Build the railway. These HTO guys are to much.

  2. Posted by big_jumbalaya on

    If phase 2 is not approved the mine will close down completely in <24 months imo. If you do a little math and google the publically available numbers this would be obvious. If you work here and look at the rate they are burning cash, this timeline would make sense.

    This mine would last 50+ years. There goes all those well-paying jobs for people from the northern communities. Anyone that wants a job – even if you are not qualified, we will MAKE a job for you and give you all the training.

    Go ahead and block phase 2. That sends a great message to future investors in Nunavut. There are an abundance of good jobs in Nunavut anyway, who cares. I'm sure Medialine, Amaruq, and Hope Bay will be there 15 years from now when your children grow up. Lol….

    • Posted by John burch on

      Hi and thanks for the opportunity I work up at baffinland and they spend more money wastefully I believe because of poor management wildlife has disappeared in the six years that I have been up there you see very little rabbits very little foxes and geese and birds her disappearing they seem to have no regard for the lab even what they say

      • Posted by Bert on

        What animals are you talking about? It’s a desert of rocks there.

  3. Posted by Worker on

    How hard is it to mine a product when you just dig out of the ground and ship it out without processing it?
    Too political involvement will ruin a simple mining plan like come on digging out of the ground and shipping it as for railway the caribou can cross it no problem because caribou will cross no matter what when migrating.
    So what if the mining expands its just digging rocks and shipping it probably the simplest mining.

    • Posted by not so simple on

      I am guessing you have never been to, or talked to anyone from, Pond Inlet.

      • Posted by Worker on

        Of course I have and you must be referring to the shipping issue and in the mining industry volume is the key and my point is the is no processing in that mine unlike other mine which handling lots of toxic material but not at this mine so lets make it work.

  4. Posted by Inuapik on

    Got a question here…I lost my job to. Umm do I not count all 96 inuit workers with me? Is NTI AND QIA going to compensate us for lost of job and wages? Which indirectly affects at least 500 family members who relied on our income..SO NTI and QIA with the royalties you received so far from the mine are you going to help us? .after all is that not your mandate to help us inuits and for the betterment of inuits…or am i mistaken or was l lied to?

  5. Posted by Shocking on

    O.K. NTI and QIA, you have had your day. You have made headlines. You have shut down a process, and disabled a company from growing. That same company that represents over 12 % of the GDP for the entire territory. Come on now PJ. Come to your senses now. Do something remarkable. Invite Baffinland to the table and figure out how you can move forward, and close this deal. That will result in more jobs for Nunavut residents, more care and benefit to North Baffin communities, and more success for Nunavut. Take care of all of the people, and the territory. Do something right for once. A year delay is too long. Lets get this done in 3 months. Stop being so silly. I call on you QIA and NTI to be true leaders on fixing this mess. I am tired of reading all of the negative stories. Lets make a positive story. Call a meeting. REach out your hand. Are you not supposed to be partners with the mine??? Does not seem like it?

  6. Posted by Worker on

    Maybe ship from both sides of Baffin Island? to off set the shipping traffic.

  7. Posted by Mittimatalik on

    Hello y’all

    Future is depends on culture of our kids and next generation. It impacts already on marine life especially this year because of 6 millions tonnes of ore. Less seals hardly narwhals and narwhals were no fat this year because of this. Almost every one of you is about money now. What happened to this generation of life. We as Inuit didn’t depends on money back in 80s and 90s. If your gonna complain about this, asked the hunters here in pond inlet how difficult it has been since baffinland started shipping put ore like three years ago up until this year. If your working in baffinland I’m sorry but not sorry. QIA nor baffinland did very little or nothing at all to pond inlet people. They’re more into money than Inuit culture, alot of young people are doing alot of hunting now. They won’t be able to hunt if they accept phase 2. And I’m pretty sure they won’t help pond inlet people even they say they will help pond people. We stop believing them. That’s why we are standing up now. Go ahead, gave me negative feedback from this and pond inlet people about this.

    • Posted by Inuapik on

      Ok go hunting a put food on every bodies table from your hunting…buy a ski-doo…gas…hunting gear…gun…boat…sleds….oh wait-a-minute….you need money to buy all those….darn it….now what mittsi?

      • Posted by Reality Check on

        Give your head a shake. I am all for keeping tradition and culture alive. But it is just that tradition and culture. In 2019 tradition and culture don’t keep people alive and well. I know live in public housing for $60.00 a month. But when the true cost is over 3000 a month someone is paying that. Nothing comes free. Taxes and government hand outs are paying for that. Give your head a shake. You suggest that lots of young people are hunting…sure maybe recreationally, but they are not feedingt he community. Where are all of these Caribou…………gone, because they have been over hunted. Every time one shows up, it is shot and killed. I heard that a group from Pond Inlet went up to the mine and killed like 8 caribou, and brought them back to Pond. Amazing that the only place they could go hunting to catch caribou was at the mine site. I thought that carribiou were scared of the mine…..yet that is the place people from Pond went to hunt, and successfully kill more of these beautiful animals. I also heard that they took handouts of food and gas from the mine too…..interesting, how come they didn’t just do it on their own? Why did they put out their hand for free stuff? Maybe becuase that is a reflection of the new society? Give me, give me. It is not traditional any more. It is not about what one person can do for their community. It is about please give me what I need for free. Again, I am all for culture and tradition. Please feel free to hunt, fish, and whale. But do so without all of the luxuries that you speak so negativly about. Get rid of your skidoo, get rid of your cell phone, get rid of all of those things that you speak so negativly about. You know everything the white man broought to your commuity. If you can do it on your own, please feel free to do so. You speak so negativly about the mine, but don’tt mind accepting over $50,000 from the mine for your foodbank. Speak so negativly about the mine, but don’t mind the free gifts. Don’t mind the work for over 400 Nunavut residfents either…….give your head a shake……..

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