Inuit org blasts Baffinland for expansion plan information gaps

Missing reports make it hard to prepare for September public hearing, QIA says

Participants at technical meetings held last week at Iqaluit’s cadet hall discuss Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed expansion of its Mary River iron mine. (File photo)

By Jim Bell

In a strongly worded letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association has blasted Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. for multiple failures in providing information required for an environmental and socio-economic assessment of the company’s railway-based phase-two expansion plan for its Mary River iron mine.

QIA told the review board they don’t have enough information from Baffinland right now to allow them to adequately represent the interests of Qikiqtani Inuit or prepare for a public hearing that the review board proposes holding in Pond Inlet, starting this Sept. 16.

“We are not confident we have the required technical information that is necessary to proceed to a hearing at this point in time,” Jeremiah Groves, QIA’s executive director, said in a letter dated April 15.

The missing information that QIA complains about was supposed to have been provided to stakeholders prior to a set of technical meetings held earlier this month in Iqaluit, from April 8 to April 10.

On the last day of those meetings, Levi Barnabas, a QIA board member from North Baffin, said the review board’s assessment of the phase-two project is moving too quickly and that there are still too many unanswered questions.

In their April 15 letter, QIA does not explicitly propose a re-scheduling of the September public hearing—but they do request “direction from the board on the path forward.”

The missing information includes an icebreaking assessment, a simulated modelling report, a cumulative effects assessment, and about 40 separate management and monitoring plans.

“This impeded QIA’s ability to participate adequately on discussions about the likelihood of mitigating impacts or the adequacy of proposed monitoring plans to address potential impacts,” QIA said in the letter.

QIA’s complaints echo earlier complaints made by a federal government entity called the Northern Projects Management Office.

Part of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, the projects management office, located in Yellowknife, helps developers navigate northern regulatory systems and often speaks with one voice on behalf of the many federal departments that participate in environmental assessments.

“Not having this information prior to the technical meetings will limit the ability of federal departments to discuss these topics in a meaningful and constructive manner at the technical meetings,” the projects management office said.

That was in a letter, sent on behalf of seven federal agencies, on April 5, before the technical meetings started.

Baffinland had responded by promising to supply the outstanding material between May and July 10.

But QIA said that doesn’t give stakeholders enough time to produce final written submissions.

“Given that final written submissions are due from parties on August 10, this three-month delay from Baffinland seems unfair,” the QIA said.

The Inuit organization also said it doesn’t like Baffinland’s proposed solutions, such as adding a day to some working group meetings.

QIA also said the information Baffinland has submitted so far does not allow for a full consideration of the potential impacts of its phase-two expansion.

Baffinland’s $900-million expansion plan is based on building a 110-kilometre railway from Mary River to Milne Inlet.

That would double its permitted level of ore production to 12 million tonnes a year, and extend the length of its shipping season from July 1 to Nov. 15.

At the same time, marine vessel traffic to and from Milne Inlet through Eclipse Sound would increase to at least 175 round trips a year.

Coupled with the future construction of a southbound railway from Mary River to a port at Steensby Inlet, which Baffinland received approval for in 2012, ore production from Mary River could one day reach 30 million tonnes a year.

“Pond Inlet is at risk of a major escalation in the impacts they experience from the Mary River Project. QIA and Inuit have historical concerns that may be exacerbated by more trucking, building railways and shipping,” QIA said.

As of the time this story was prepared, the NIRB had yet to say if it has decided to re-schedule the September public hearing in Pond Inlet.

QIA Letter to NIRB on Technical Meeting by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Hi Ho Hi Ho on

    Could it be be that Baffinland is just trying to run out the clock?
    Could it be that meaningful consultation is the last thing they want?

    Mime slowly, so Inuit have time to learn to be miners, rather than just labourers.

    As long as the iron is in the ground it belongs to Inuit and Inuit have an opportunity to benefit from it. When it’s shipped to Europe or China, Inuit will get penny a ton royalties.

  2. Posted by Tommy on

    You’re land is being pillaged just to get a penny. That is how I see it. Inuit are not in better shape, are they? Is the land still pristine? All this for royalties?

  3. Posted by Stop Them in Their Tracks on

    Baffinland will have made their money and run by the time that this gets worked out.
    The minerals are not going anywhere. Stop them and any other future ‘gold diggers’ from profiting, until they comply with Inuit, on Inuit land.

  4. Posted by Inuk miner on

    Inuit orgs don’t mind the royalties coming in but they don’t want the company to increase production but more production means more money so its simply business.
    The shipping lane should be on the other side of Baffin Island less harm to the wildlife compared to Pond side .

    • Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

      Even if the shipping lane was on the other side of Baffin Island (Steensby Inlet), there would still be widespread disruption of wildlife, especially walrus. Would be disastrous for the igunaq industry (though it is mostly meat sharing), so either vway, it is the beginning of the end of sustainable dependency on wildlife in North Baffin.

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