Mary River mine protesters announce end to blockade

Nuluujaat Land Guardians accept proposal for meetings with community leaders and Inuit organizations

Protesters who have been blockading Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s mine at Mary River announced Wednesday night they will decamp and prepare for face-to-face meetings with community leaders and Inuit organizations. This photo submitted in court by Baffinland shows the protest site last week. (Photo from Nunavut Court of Justice)

By Randi Beers

Updated at 1:15 p.m.

After a week of blockading an airstrip and road to an iron mine on north Baffin Island, a small group of protesters are packing up their tents.

That’s according to protesters’ spokesperson Marie Naqitarvik, wife of protester Tom Naqitarvik.

She sent out a news release late Wednesday, announcing the group would be decamping and moving to an observation position at a nearby hunting cabin, before heading to Pond Inlet Saturday to prepare for face-to-face meetings with community leaders and Inuit organizations.

The protesters call themselves the Nuluujaat Land Guardians, and they have been blocking access to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River iron mine since the evening of Feb. 4.

The group of seven men travelled by snowmobile from the communities of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay, journeys of approximately 12 hours and 36 hours, respectively.

The protesters oppose a proposal for expansion of the mine that would see its output of iron ore double to 12 million tonnes per year, as well as construction of a 110-kilometre railway. The Nunavut Impact Review Board recently held public hearings about the proposal in Pond Inlet. Those meetings adjourned Feb. 6.

The protesters believe their concerns the expansion will drive caribou away and harm other wildlife in the area, including narwhal, have not been heard. Inuit in the region depend on these animals for subsistence.

“We would like to see actual negotiations with the most impacted communities,” protester Naymen Inuarak told Nunatsiaq News over satellite phone from the encampment on Feb. 8.

Their presence rendered the mine’s airstrip and road impassable, which left some 700 employees stuck at the mine, with no access to fresh food or supplies.

On Feb. 10, in a flurry of activity at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit, Baffinland’s lawyers sought an injunction for removal of the protesters.

Judge Susan Cooper issued a court order that morning, allowing access to the airstrip so employees stuck at the mine could go home.

Later that day, Pond Inlet Mayor Joshua Arreak proposed a plan to end the blockade by holding a meeting between the protesters, community leaders, Premier Joe Savikataaq and Inuit organizations that represent Inuit in the area, as soon as possible.

The meetings are intended to make sure the protesters’ concerns are understood, and hammer out support for those concerns before resumption of public hearings into the proposed mine expansion, which are scheduled to continue this March. The meetings also call for the Inuit organizations to commit to sharing more mine royalties with communities in the area.

“We are not satisfied with the benefits we are currently receiving,” states the news release, signed by Arreak and Pond Inlet senior administrative officer David Stockley. “This is an important issue for the protesters.”

Shortly after the news release was sent out, pictures appeared on social media showing RCMP officers at the Pond Inlet airport.

The news release from Naqitarvik acknowledged reports of their arrival. She said the protesters’ lawyer, Lori Idlout, spoke to their managing officer.

“Idlout has also spoken via satellite phone to the Guardians regarding this development,” states the release. “No immediate travel to the Mine Site is anticipated.”

The release also acknowledged Arreak’s proposal, saying the offer had been accepted, and details were being worked out.

That was mere hours before the final news release, announcing the protesters had reached a consensus to decamp to the hunting cabin before heading home.

“This departure will not end their advocacy in relation to the Baffinland Mine,” states the release.

“The Guardians are continuing action on the land unless they can see progress in proposed meetings.”

The release also thanks supporters for support and messages, and says the protesters look forward to returning to their families.

Baffinland acknowledged the end of the blockades in a news release issued on Thursday afternoon.

“We welcome the move to a constructive dialogue and hope to work in collaboration with our community partners to find mutually agreeable solutions to the issues that have been raised,” Baffinland CEO Brian Penney said in the release.

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(50) Comments:

  1. Posted by John K on

    This is great news. Hopefully Baffinland takes this opportunity to bring in a security detail to post around the site. Remove their ability to reoccupy by occupying the space yourself.

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    • Posted by What? on

      Hopefully, Baffinland takes this opportunity to fully engage with people who are being negatively affected by their pursuit of greater profits and resource extraction, not simply to hire some goons to sit around in case others show displeasure about how they negatively impact lands and lifestyles of the residents in the area.
      .
      The fact people will unironically read this article and go “good, I hope they increase security to deter people” rather than “good, I hope this will lead to better dialogue and understanding between everyone” is really troubling…

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      • Posted by iWonder on

        Alternately, some might feel that holding people hostage and infringing on their safety is just not okay. Also remember that it is possible to ‘dialogue’ and still not agree. What should happen then? Would it be excessively cynical to suggest that the term dialogue, at least in this case, is code for “listen to me and come around to my way of thinking, or else”?

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        • Posted by Lisa Nen on

          It’s cynical maybe but true?…. This kind of ‘dialogue’ is exactly one of the things the protestors are protesting. Or why they have to protest at all. BIMC’s definition of community consultation has been just that: “listen to me” present (or at best, they listen to community members, “we hear you” – but then, having done that, go ahead and do whatever they want anyway and give themselves a checkmark for (meaningless) consultation. Alll this talk of “hostages” is sooooo melodramatic and dangerous. It’s like inciting or justifying any violence against or towards the protestors – which as far as I understand have moved off the runway anyway to a nearby cabin, and meanwhile haven’t some of the so-called “hostages” at the mine penned an open letter saying they are fine and have plenty of food, and despite the inconvenience, are themselves in support of the means and ends of this protest. ….

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          • Posted by Reid Kona on

            Yes…..the ****ANONYMOUS**** “open letter written by a “sizeable minority” of Mary River mine employees currently stranded in Nunavut by a protest, which says they recognize Inuit as “rightful custodians of the land.”
            Note….”SIZEABLE MINORITY”.
            Very interesting to see they state they have not been in danger. If the air strip & Tote Road was not being properly maintained….an emergency flight out would have been delayed until the roads & runway were useable. Did the Hunters have Caribou meat with them? If so….great way to attract the Polar Bear into the Camp area.
            I guess this “minority” wasn’t running out of medication either.
            If that “minority” has issues with the dust and exhaust fumes from the Mine…..they shouldn’t be working at “any” Mine….anywhere.

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      • Posted by Really on

        Hopefully some people will take this time to learn some more about these “noble protestors” and learn that some had some very suspiciously selfish motives that had nothing to do with preserving the environment and everything to do with preserving their bank accounts.

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      • Posted by John K on

        All I want is dialog and understanding. That is impossible while one party impotently aims their rage at regular working class people.

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        • Posted by Impotent? on

          If they were so impotent, why do you say security is needed to stop them?
          .
          You’re all over the place and make no sense, other than showing contempt for anyone not walking in lockstep with what a well-off industrial entity wants.
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          You’re acting as if the people conducting the blockade weren’t ‘working class’ themselves… were they billionaires or something?

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      • Posted by glad the workers are coming home on

        I would like to see security. I had a loved one up there at the mine. All the workers up there were very concerned. The families were concerned too.

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      • Posted by Surprised? on

        Are you surprised by the lack of support for the actions of these protestors? It was effective to get everyone back to the table at the cost of disrupting many innocent people’s lives, not just company activities.

        It’s ironic that your quest for morality involved holding hundreds of workers in peril.

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        • Posted by Jim on

          Workers in peril? That seems a bit melodramatic. How many thousands of animal species are likely to surely die from the expansion proposed? I think you may want to consider that.

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          • Posted by Sources please on

            What is tis “thousands of species” you talk about. Give me some sources of your information please
            If you are suggesting the decline of the caribou on Baffin Island, you may want to research that further. The links found easily by googling suggest the decline was long before mining operations. And brought on by changing migration and by overhunting.

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    • Posted by Their Land on

      I’m a southerner….I want to remind everyone who works at Baffinland that this is INUIT land – if you do not believe in their right to detremine how their land is used and to occassionaly protest if they feel they are not being heard then find another job. Most mines are on indigenous land so if you are working in mining in Canada, get used to it. There is NO need for “security” detail – this is not the Baffinland way. There is need for continued partnership and building between the Mine, the QIA, NTI and Inuit.

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      • Posted by John K on

        Who is this mysterious “they” that you speak of. I appreciate your effort to understand and accommodate our culture and desires but you undo your own good will by making a monolith of us.

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        • Posted by Seen it 1000 times on

          Exactly, John. This person unfortunately lives up to some of the stereotypes of the ignorant southerner, viewing all indigenous people like the characters in Avatar.

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    • Posted by banbim on

      Get Bim out of the North. Very toxic company dividing people constantly. I am not Inuit and what I witnessed was appalling. Very unorganized company. I watched an Inuit elder be scolded by an idiot forman for not having his PPE. It was miss placed by another shift during his time off…wasn’t his fault. Forman made him sit in lunch room all day. Sadness.

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      • Posted by indeed comments on

        Read “Indeed” reviews of BIM

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  2. Posted by Soothsayer on

    Nuluujaat Land Guardians, nice… I can’t wait for the film. Someone call Alethea? She must be on this by now.

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  3. Posted by northbaffin on

    There are many sides to this story, the below statement is only partially correct.

    “The protesters oppose a proposal for expansion of the mine that would see its output of iron ore double to 12 million tonnes per year, as well as construction of a 110-kilometre railway. The Nunavut Impact Review Board recently held public hearings about the proposal in Pond Inlet. Those meetings adjourned Feb. 6.”

    They are only opposed to the expansion because the DIO’s are not listening to our concerns. there may be only a handful of people who want this shut down. I don’t think most people want it shut down, we need the jobs. we want to be heard, we want our concerns taken seriously, but its hard to do when QIA wont’ listen. we’ve said our concerns over and over to no avail. maybe now they will take us seriously?

    the gloves are off, this is more against QIA, not BIM, and the only way we were able to be heard is by taking the actions we did.

    its truly sad we had to, but thats what it took to be heard. If we were taken seriously years and years ago, it would NOT have gotten to this point.

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  4. Posted by Their Land on

    I’m a southerner and want to remind everyone who works at Baffinland that this is INUIT land – if you do not believe in their right to detremine how their land is used and to occassionaly protest if they feel they are not being heard then find another job. Most mines are on indigenous land so if you are working in mining in Canada, get used to it. There is NO need for “security” detail – this is not the Baffinland way. There is need for continued partnership and building between the Mine, the QIA, NTI and Inuit.

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    • Posted by Northerner on

      Yeah but thet have a legal lease of that land. What was done is illegal and cost millions not to mention a hit to Baffinland’s reputation. Someone will need to answer for this in the end.

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    • Posted by “anyone who shows empathy is virtue signalling” on

      You realise that just because someone expresses compassion and sentiment you don’t feel personally, it doesn’t mean it’s a performative act of ‘virtue signalling’, right?
      .
      No one was talking about the ‘right side of history’ until you brought it up.
      .
      Curious!

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    • Posted by you don’t get it on

      No body has a problem with them protesting. Everyone here at the mine understands that this is their land, and we support their right to protest. I’m currently onsite at the mine and I havn’t talked to a single person that has any problems with them shutting down the road. The problem we all have is with the airstrip being blocked. They can get their message out there by simply blocking the road, we’d all be fine with that and wouldn’t care. Blocking the air strip and not allowing food to come in or people to go out is what we all have issues with. People that are being FORCED to stay on site because of the hunters are running low on medications, missing important doctors apointmeants, missing out on time with their kids that they don’t have full custody over, honeslty I could go on forever in terms of the ways this has affected us all. NO ONE has any issues with protesting and shutting down production, the only thing we care about is how the actions of the protestors are affecting HUNDREDS of people who have nothing to do with any of what’s going on and have no power to give them what they want.

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      • Posted by Kivaliqmiutaq on

        You don’t,t get it, sound,s like your talking about miner,s missing their medications and families doctor,s appointments and probably most of all alcohol, I could go on and on.

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  5. Posted by Reid Kona on

    Wonderful to see this “nightmare” coming to an end!
    Hopefully the Protesters can come to terms pertaining to their grievances with the “correct” individuals.
    Confining the 700 BIM employees to the Mine Camps was NOT appropriate….shame on you!

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  6. Posted by Silas on

    This is good news. It seems to me that some people think that hunter gatherers are any less workers who are taking home something for their families. Today people think that if I work and take home a pay cheque then I am the bread winner. People who hunt and gather for their families are doing as much if not more by their efforts than those who work at the mine or any other organization or business.
    In the end they are providing for their family as well as anybody else, and before Inuit were settled they survived in this environment where nobody else could. They made a living with a system that worked for them. Because people want more than what they need it is displacing those who are satisfied with what they have and those are the hunter gatherers. Those who want more are destroying the very workplace that the hunters gatherers know will provide for their families.
    Once they are done extracting what they want it is leaving their workplace in worse condition than they found it and the hunter gatherers are left with lands that may not be suitable for the animals that have provided for them for a millennia. Those who represent the hunter gatherers and those who propose to change the very environment in which they support their families must truly listen and find some solution that they are willing to accept.

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    • Posted by Silas on

      *Correction* It seems to me that some people think that hunter gatherers are any less workers than those who work at the mines or organizations and businesses, they are taking home something for their families.

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    • Posted by Too Late on

      They are not any ‘less’ workers. They are ‘economic dead-enders’ t be sure though. Hunting/gathering is a supplement to the wage economy, it can’t replace it.

      These men were born too late for the economy that they live in. The economy isn’t going to change, so I reckon that they are the last of a dying breed as they say.

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  7. Posted by Darren on

    The time of us Inuit being able to subsist off of the harvesting of our traditional food sources is over, it is sad but we are TOO LARGE of a population for these animals to support us any longer. We must move bravely into the modern world and give our children what they need to survive TODAY not what they needed to survive in times gone by. This is not to say there is not a place for environment stewardship but this whole affair REEKS of external environmentalist influence, of people who will not have to suffer the effects of poverty that our people will. High pay, low education jobs in mining is our best way forward to help our people now. One day the average level of education will support more higher skilled work but we are not there yet. Do not damn our children to poverty to keep external environmentalists happy, for them the ONLY answer is no mine expansion at all.

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    • Posted by Silas on

      In twenty or thirty years that mine will be gone. The animals will still be around as they always have. Inuit are smart enough not to over hunt if they have the proper training just like they receive the proper training to work at the mines.
      Inuit now are always at the lower end of the pay scale for lack of education and the unwillingness to study. In twenty or thirty years Inuit will have the proper education to run those mines and reap all the benefits.
      Right now millions of dollars are leaving the territory through those mines. The people who earn most of the money, supervisors, millwrights, geologists, managers, they don’t spend a penny/nickel in the territory. They completely bypass our communities and spend it in southern Canada or elsewhere. They don’t know the people in the communities except those who work with them and they have no clue who Inuit really are, they continue with their prejudices for lack or knowledge.

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      • Posted by Northerner on

        Correction. Most Inuit make more than everyone else on site. Don’t start with the salaries. I know how much some of them are paid lol

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        • Posted by Dough! on

          Doh! How about the cost of living in Nunavut? Is that even considered?

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      • Posted by Their Land on

        It’s a great notion. It would be so great if it were a requirement for employees of the mine to spend time in the communities. Not everyone of course as it would be too expensive, but some. It would such a good experience – more people in Canada should get to know the north.

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      • Posted by Uvanga on

        The fishing industry is the same although they are Inuit owned by BFC QC fisheries and arctic aliance, they benefit the people of the south more so then Inuit. All there operations are in the south for logistical purposes and all sourhern empliyees are on salary whereas inuit are in lower position and many have no stable housing. Due to lack of housing up here, some are forced to move south just like the Inuit who work for the mines. Two very profitable operations should really deveplop some infrustrunture that will help the communities. Yup inuit dev corps need to build housing

    • Posted by Well said on

      Very good words, I love hunting and fishing, and being able to do that, but the unfortunately reality of it is that we all need to learn to co-exist with traditional lifestyles and modernization because yes although I live traditional food, it is not possible to survive solely the way our ancestors did for millennia, kudos to them for being tough to be able to survive so many hardships that would probably cripple most everyone today, but we need to be able to adapt and overcome the new challenges presented to everyone nowadays

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  8. Posted by Colonial Boy on

    I agree with you Darren, so do a lot of Inuit people in Nunavut.
    If some people want traditional , pre- colonial , lifestyle , let them do it. Good luck.
    God help them.
    Yes ” WELL SAID” you speak truly, if people tried to live the old way, so many would die.
    AMEN

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  9. Posted by eskimo joe on

    Are you happy now MaCloskey?

  10. Posted by “Land Guardians” you say? on

    Alas, the “Land Guardians” have finally revealed their true motivation…royalties that QIA negotiated and control.

    The claims of wildlife and environment are simply a safe smokescreen that few dare contradict them on.

    This is about $$ and QIA should have had the means at the heart of their Democratic processes with community directors to have been out in front of this and have community support.

    QIA should do right by the impacted communities but I sure hope that the mafia-type organizers that make up the “Land Guardians” and QUK are not the vehicle to do so simply to line their own pockets.

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  11. Posted by The Law on

    The amount of misinformation about very basic concepts of ownership and land title has been staggering. It shows that many Inuit either do not understand the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement or choose to believe in myths that surround it.
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    There is Inuit Owned Land but it is not collectively owned by individuals. It is held and controlled by the DIOs such as QIA. They determine where royalties from their leases to the mining companies go.
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    QIAs board may not listen to everyone or prefer the interests of some Inuit over others. It didn’t take this protest to show that. There is an obvious underclass of Inuit who do not share in the wealth. Inuit need to vote more than 17% turnout if they want to change that, not resort to these tactics. Until they do, the literal millionaire class of Inuit ruling over the DIOs from the comfort of Ottawa will serve their own interests.
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    The NIRB process needs to be reigned in. Reason and procedural rules need to prevail to ensure an efficient process, as well as one that is fair. This will mean restricting irrelevant lines of questioning like courts of lae do all the time.

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    • Posted by Our Achilles’ Heel on

      Something to think about, but in Nunavut we have the least educated population in Canada; the lowest literacy rates and the lowest levels of post-secondary attainment. Inevitably that translates into the kinds of problems you raised; poor understandings of the law, of the NLCA, greater susceptibility to misinformation and to magical thinking.

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      • Posted by Thinking on

        Can’t disagree with you. The socioeconomic issues here are complicated. Not sure education is best served by always focusing on languages and not the English basics everyone needs to succeed in 2021.

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        • Posted by Our Achilles’ Heel on

          The focus on language is understandable and, in my opinion, not the real problem. There’s really no reason why Inuit can’t be masters of both Inuktitut and English. The real issue as I see it is the value placed on education and that involves another complex web of issues I won’t try to un-yarn here.

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  12. Posted by Inuk Hunter on

    Most of the commenters aren’t Hunters or doesn’t know how to hunt wild animals, people who have fed themselves or fed other Inuit that have grew up with traditional food needs like traditional food like Narwhal, Seal, Caribou, fish, Beluga, Bowhead Whale, Bearded Seal, Walrus for food to eat doesn’t want to eat like farmed animals like Cow, Pig or Chicken. Most of the commenters rather take their food easy way meaning mass slaughter of Cows, Pigs and Chicken or processed food like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and other fast food chains.

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    • Posted by Under Siege on

      You do realize that there are over 8 billion people on this world, right? We’re long past equilibrium with the environment, and I hate to break this to you, but the Inuit are among the fastest growing populations in Canada. Do you really believe that they could survive today like they have in the past? Thank goodness for farming, eh?

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    • Posted by iThink on

      The hubris among the hunting class has always sort of amused me. Yes, it’s a great skill to have and hunters deserve respect, but to act like hunting is the pinnacle of human accomplishment and skill is to ignore some pretty impressive civilizational achievements, none of which would have been possible had humankind remained hunter-gatherers; space exploration, a permanent colony in space, particle colliders, the discovery of quantum physics. Where do these fit on the scale of great accomplishments? Of course, the people who mastered those things could never shoot a caribou on the open tundra.

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      • Posted by Harvesting as a real means of the economy on

        Harvesting is a real, vital economy in the north – not just for hunters, but for entire families and communities – hunters aren’t dying out – hunters are both men and women and young and old, including elders and children – the value of the harvesting economy has been previously tried to be calculated in dollar terms years ago in the tens of millions – its not about accepting transition from old ways to new ways, because we have adapted very quickly in the past 80-90 years – we are not stuck in a frozen state of a harvesting lifestyle, but trying our best to understand how to keep this economy healthy, yet benefit more from development through training and education, employment and business opportunities and other economic benefits. Our employment opportunities are stunted by the fact that our governments and our partners aren’t able to invest in university programs correlating to the economy arising from development and environmental studies that comes with them

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  13. Posted by THINKING ALSO on

    I like I THINK’s comments.
    Back in the 1960’s my young grandparents moved into a settle meant from the land.
    The young Celtic clerks who worked at the store were very good at making cheap, wholesome
    meals, porridge and dried fruit, bannock, caribou&a barley with dried vegetables.
    They said that was how it was in their old country.
    Be good if Nunatsiaq News could do a recipe column.

    • Posted by iThink on

      Bless you and may you live a long and happy life

  14. Posted by From ontario on

    May hold some relevance here:

    Similar issues with dust arise in southwestern ontario, where farm land neighbors/-, and is in direct contact with fumes, air-borne particles from lime and cement plants that are nearby (Carmeuse-lime, Federal white cement, Lafarge).

    These plants utilize air-quality monitoring — not just chemical suppressants, or covering of the raw material, to better react -in real-time- to the dust getting into neighboring farm crops/land. There are small-buildings with air quality monitoring meters that are located outside the perimeter of the plant, and onto the farm land, to ensure the particles aren’t spreading.

    Might be a relevant initiative to be implemented within a containment approach for Baffinland to ensure the iron filings/residuals are contained

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