Local leaders happy with QIA’s decision to not support Baffinland mine expansion

Regional Inuit association has been silent on issue until now

North Baffin hamlets and hunting organizations are largely happy with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s decision to withhold support for Baffinland’s plans to double output at its Mary River mine. (Photo courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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.

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(22) Comments:

  1. Posted by Ian on

    Finally,we all agree,shut it down,and leave the iron ore in the ground.

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    • Posted by Kensteitzer on

      I worked there and poeple were good but management sucked they had explosives residue flowing out of c cans above rivers and didnt even try and clean it up . Management painting foxs orange and no safety .

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  2. Posted by northbaffin on

    QIA finally has sided. Why did they, for years, remain silent although the communities were speaking out about it. It IS too bad that they had to wait for protestors to do their blockade, now QIA look the fool. the communities spoke out for years. Your inactions have led to the creation of NLG and QUK. Now the North Baffin has to deal with the, in no uncertain terms, the nepotistic QUK and the Land Guardians. How can the Chairperson of QUK, despite previous stories of distance, be the elder advisor for the Land Guardians. Now North Baffin is screwed. QIA, shame, shame, shame…now look what you did.

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    • Posted by Rolling eyes on

      QIA has done so many community meeting/consultations over the years, information sessions to get community input over the years, so many like yourself never attend these meetings and give your input until you think it’s time to do so.
      There have been many who supported this mine for the jobs and contracts, there still are but the few families that want more and more have tried to start a organization for themselves.
      Some starting to get in that bandwagon.
      So remember next time when there is a community meeting being set up to join and give your two cents instead of complaining afterwards. The inactions are those that don’t attend meetings and consultations. This has to be very frustrating and difficult for QIA as they try to follow the process and try to meet with the communities only to have some saying they have been inactive.
      If you really care then take the time to be part of these meetings or contact them with your concerns.

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      • Posted by northbaffin on

        My first comment still stand, i’ve been to more meetings than i can count, in more than one community….so…yeah….

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  3. Posted by Jim on

    How am I not surprised the DM has not been kept up to date on this matter, it’s like the GN is trying not to be part of this, maybe they do not want to build capacity for Nunavummiut to work in mining.
    Not a who lot of confidence in our GN.

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  4. Posted by What if on

    What if… Baffinland pulls out…..what happens to the current employees being paid for a year to “stay home” 200 families have no income? Where will they get jobs. Prices for food, freight, etc, flights. We will be trapped in communities or forced to move..??!!?? Not everyone can support themselves off the land and if they do will the land be able to sustain that amount of need.

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    • Posted by I agree on

      The few that are very vocal do not outweigh the many, the ones working for the mine, the ones with contracts from the mine need to speak up and not be afraid of these few who are so vocal, speak up or you may lose your employment. It’s not fair for the hard working Inuit at these mines and the ones waiting to start working there again.
      So much one sided news out of this page that we are missing the whole picture.

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      • Posted by snapshot on

        There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.

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    • Posted by No Moniker on

      If that happens then the ‘leaders’ who are currently performing their victory lap and pretending they have accomplished something meaningful will be confronted with a problem that can’t be solved by pontificating and moral grandstanding before an ever fawning media.

      What a sad spectacle it will be.

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  5. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    what really concerns me is the amount of iron dust which has been shown on the land and ice. this has to be looked into, the animals are being affected as well as our people who are hunting them.

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    • Posted by Solutions on

      Would be nice if the mine tried to solve that issue. Oh wait, isn’t that in the phase 2 proposal?

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  6. Posted by Bushman on

    What needs to happen is that BIM start using the indoor crusher and show us how they can mitigate their dust mess with the output volume they currently have. Not the answer BIM wants, I’m, sure. But at least they wont be making enemies.

    What QIA needs to do is admit that they have been approving the railway contracts BIM has been issuing all along, and apologise. All this grandstanding that they are ‘with the people’ is all too transparent.

    BIM messed up by starting to build the rail foundation as far as they did with no approval what so ever, comp,etely ignoring the NLC process all together.

    But tell you what, if phase 2 doesnt go ahead then BIM goes broke. Unfortunately lobbying the QIA didnt please the actual affected people. Not their fault though, again it was QIA approving their contracted investments without communitie’s approval. Oh wait, their documents said they had approval of affected communities, oh yeah, they were fibbing.

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    • Posted by Logistics on

      Indoor crusher needs heavy rail cars and a railroad. Trucks don’t work for jaw crushed ore.

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      • Posted by Bushman on

        Didnt know that, thanks. But, regardless, unless the dust is mitigated with their given volume mined, then there is no reason to jepordise the caribou grounds and create further damage.

        The original thought on BIM was that it is great. There is no processing, it is a clean mineral extraction, little impact to the environment besides boat traffic, now we see this is not the case.

        Unless they can get what they have been given under control, communities should not be expected to lose everything.

        People go on about the community benefits, the employment, and the clean railway, and what the development would mean for the communities. Truth is, it is the same story over and over so the companies get what they want. And again, we have seen next to nothing.

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      • Posted by Steve L Hill on

        Logistics, thanks so much for sharing.
        You made some very constructive, albeit brief points there.

        If I am to understand correctly: BIM using railways cars would allow the use of an indoor crusher.

        To what extent do you suppose that would mitigate the excess Iron Ore Dust challenge?

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        • Posted by Logistics on

          Other mines have had similar challenges with dust and solved them in a similar way.
          The majority of dust production occurs in the final crushing of the ore, turning it into a finished product. Currently this is done outside at Mary River Mine before being loaded onto light trailers.
          Using heavy rail cars, the ore can be jaw crushed at Mary River Mine to a large dimensional size, transported and then crushed indoors, with ventilation and filtration systems, to a finished product at Milne Port. This doesn’t eliminate all the dust but controls and mitigates the majority of it.
          Most mines use water as a dust control but in North Baffin it is completely impractical due to temperature, settling ponds and water licensing.

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  7. Posted by Rick h on

    Glad it turned out the way you wanted , look after the Arctic beautiful place

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  8. Posted by Uvanga on

    This mine needs to become a town once they mitigate the dust issue. Just how Nanisivik was where they provided housing families to stay together. So much potential if its done right.

    • Posted by Boyce on

      Yeah, my thoughts were the same for the mine Raglan. Nice land near the port for workers families. Work ing there. Would be much better. Without the boss breathing down your collar day and night.

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