Local leaders happy with QIA’s decision to not support Baffinland mine expansion
Regional Inuit association has been silent on issue until now
Hunter and trapper organizations and hamlets on north Baffin Island are mostly satisfied with the regional Inuit association’s decision to not support a controversial proposal to expand an iron mine.
On March 5, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s board of directors announced a resolution to hold back support for the proposal, put forward by Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., to double output at its Mary River mine.
The board cites environmental concerns and a lack of consultation with Inuit for the decision.
The news “acknowledges what Inuit have been saying, and we are happy for that,” wrote Mittimatalik hunters chairperson Eric Ootoovak in an email to Nunatsiaq News.
Clyde River Mayor Jerry Natanine said he’s also happy with the announcement, but the association has “fumbled the whole project” and it took “way too long” for it to side with Inuit organizations that are against the current proposal.
Igloolik Mayor Merlyn Recinos is also member of a working group taking part in the public hearing on the expansion. He did not comment, saying his group first wants to meet with QIA President P.J. Akeeagok.
Up until the announcement, QIA had remained neutral on Baffinland’s proposal.
But now, Akeeagok said it is time for the association to say something.
“We felt it was very important to be able to come out with a clear position,” he said, adding that the vote was unanimous, besides one member who abstained due to a conflict of interest.
Akeeagok said he wants to see Inuit participation on a more granular level.
“It’s very important to note that the Phase 2 proposal didn’t come out of Inuit wanting to expand the mine. I want that to be very clear, in terms of where the file originated from,” he said.
“It’s very evident that you need Inuit right from the beginning to be incorporated into the project design itself.”
Meanwhile, the territorial government seems to generally support the proposal. The topic came up this week at the legislative assembly.
Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq brought up a letter written to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which is in the process of holding public hearings on the expansion.
“Relative to the GN’s mandate and legislation, we are confident [Baffinland] will have appropriate plans in place to proceed with the [proposed mine expansion] in a responsible manner,” states the letter, dated Feb. 26.
It’s signed by Natalie O’Grady, an impact assessment project manager for the territorial government.
On Tuesday, Qamaniq, who formerly worked with QIA as its Pond Inlet community co-ordinator, asked David Akeeagok, minister of economic development, if he had approved the letter and if the Government of Nunavut would reconsider its position on Baffinland’s proposal.
The minister answered that he had not seen the letter, as two deputy ministers are responsible for the sustainable development committee.
“As a government, we are open for development, as long as it’s done with environmental stewardship and our economic opportunities,” he said.
The Nunavut Impact Review Board’s hearing on Baffinland’s proposed mine expansion was extended prior to the close of the Jan. 25 session.
The next hearing session is planned for April 12 to 21 in Iqaluit, with five members from each affected community allowed to join. The first four days will be allocated to finish the technical session, then the last five days will be held for a community roundtable.