Mary River mine site, road and port closure will be hard on local hunters: HTO

Closure adds delays to hunters travelling to their traditional hunting areas, says Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. says it is closing public access to its Mary River iron mine and Milne Inlet port and will no longer provide any transportation to locals via its tote road. (Image courtesy of Baffinland)

By Jane George

Baffinland Iron Mines. Corp. is closing its Mary River mine site, tote road and port to the public after an outbreak of COVID-19 at the mine, but a local hunters and trappers organization says the move will cause big problems for hunters in the area.

“Baffinland is telling hunters to stay away from their traditional route,” said Eric Ootoovak, chairperson of the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, based in Pond Inlet.

“It’s the only route Inuit have been using for generations, so that makes it very hard, with unnecessary delays.”

The mine site lies about 176 kilometres southwest Pond Inlet, which has a population of roughly 2,000. Baffinland’s port is located on the coast about 100 kilometres southwest of the community.

Ootoovak said locals usually hop rides on Baffinland-operated equipment along its 110-kilometre tote road to get out on the land, but Baffinland said it’s going to stop giving those rides because the highly transmissible U.K. variant of COVID-19 is spreading in the territory.

Losing those rides is a problem, said Ootoovak, because the area around the tote road is littered with iron ore and road dust.

“It has been melting snow at alarming rate, preventing Inuit from travelling freely [by snowmobile], so Inuit have had to rely on Baffinland to truck equipment between sites as it becomes nearly impossible to travel,” Ootoovak said.

Baffinland also said all camps, accommodations and its visitors service centre are closed to non-mine-project staff and no supplies would be provided to any outsiders.

Ootoovak said normally the cafeterias at sites were open for hunters to go and eat if needed. As well, gas and cabin fuel were readily available to those in need, he said.

Two cabins owned by the hunters and trappers organization – one near the mine and another near the port – can still be used, Baffinland said.

The closures will be temporary, the company said.

“The health and safety of Baffinland employees, contractors and Nunavummiut remains our greatest concern and priority,” said an advisory from the company, posted on social media.

The advisory follows a news release on Wednesday that said the company, which planned to scale back activities at the mine this year, would suspend operations at Mary River mine due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

The mine had been dealing with an outbreak since last week, which, as of Thursday, numbered 23 cases.

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(30) Comments:

  1. Posted by Wonder on

    So the mine also helps hunters, maybe next time talking about closing the mine down by a select few that want more money NIRB process should listen to more groups and the rest of the people and not just a select few.

    • Posted by stop phase 2 not close on

      when the land guardians were protesting, they were protesting so phase 2 is not accepted. not to stop the mine completely. if you look at why they were protesting, you would understand. if phase 2 was a go, there would be so many negative impacts on top of the many negative impacts that are already there even with phase 1. a few examples are: caribou migration route is where they want to put the railway, a lot more ships will go through were narwhals eat and give birth, lots of seals getting scared away from ships that pass by and last but not least is there will be less inuit workers cause majority of inuit that work there are drivers. so if phase 2 happens, majority of the money will go to baffinland itself and non-inuit workers.

      • Posted by Inuk guy on

        What caribou? The mythical Baffin Island caribou?

      • Posted by Michael McIntosh on

        Stopping phase two is the same thing as stopping it completely

        • Posted by Annoyed on

          If you actually read the articles you would know that baffinland was offered a different route, one which wouldn’t impact the caribou so much. That route was proposed by locals who know this land, if they would have accepted it.

      • Posted by Caribou gotta learn to not drag their hooves? on

        Caribou can walk across the rocky tundra but can’t cross two 4″ high rails? The deer down south don’t seem to have a problem crossing them. Nor the 4-foot fences right beside them.

        • Posted by Bob on

          Deer down south and caribou up here are completely different species. Comparing the two is highly inaccurate. Even the environments are completely different. Deer are insanely high jumpers too that can easily jump a fence. Train rails are 4″ but the inbankment will be several metres high. Its not about how high caribou can jump. They see it as a foreign barrier approached with great caution. Couple that with noise and the stench of treated sleepers (have you smelled the oily industrial stench of a rail yard?). Can the caribou adjust? Maybe. But there will be an impact. No matter how small or big the impact, it should be considered whether the adjustment should actually happen. Where do we draw the line of too much environmental change?

          • Posted by The Caribou Or The Inuit on

            An embankment! Oh no! How ever will they climb that! As if Baffin island isn’t COVERED in steep hilly terrain.

            Let’s be honest here. It’s not the caribou that will be the most impacted, it’s the Inuit hunters who won’t be able to cross this rail unless it’s at a designated crossing.

      • Posted by Philip Uvilluk on

        There are hardly if any Inuit drivers on iron ore transportation from Mary River to port. These trucks are called b Train.

      • Posted by Helping Hand on

        It’s gonna be hard on the Guardians because BIM won’t be there to fix one of their snowmobiles and feed them on their way to blockade the mine again. I wonder if they’ll still be provided with food and pallets to burn while they kill 14 million dollars worth of production and burn a hole in the airstrip?

    • Posted by Larry on

      How can the local people have a say in anything when the meetings are in Iqaluit , oh right they have to keep the bars and restaurants and hotels busy, have the meetings in Igloolik,

  2. Posted by Norther Baffin on

    Cry when its operating, cry when they close it. make up your mind, either or, can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  3. Posted by Consistency on

    I thought in a previous article they said there have been no contact between the mine and local Inuit since 2020. how are you able to help hunters without having any contact.

    • Posted by Eric Valentine on

      I used to work there, contact is very minimal and the driver is dressed with a special suit not to contaminate the hunters. All precautions were taken to prevent spreading.

  4. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    so the left hand is pissed off the mine is open but the right hand is sad that they are closing?

    I do not agree with the recent tactics of Baffinland, threatening to close down and take all their toys home because they didn’t get their way, but at the end of the day you do hear of the many things that Mine Staff do for our People in the background. How many stories do we not hear of the helping Hunters, Search and Rescue, feeding hunters.

    They are not all bad guys.

  5. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    Wow how come local Nunavut hunters are allowed to mingle with Mary River mine personnel during Covid times or allowed to go on site? Our 2 mines in the kivalliq there is no contact allowed at all with mine personnel ( who are from the south) and Nunavut people due to CPHO orders to keep Covid out of Nunavut since March 2020. This is why no Nunavumiut have been working at the mines since March 2020!

  6. Posted by Debbie on

    Since the Nunavut Government closed the caribou harvest on Baffin Island on May 4, 2021 – I’m wondering if this makes the Baffinland Iron Mines closure less critical? Also, wondering if dealing with COVID at the mine site, will reduce human activities which may in turn might support caribou in the area? Obviously an important time for caribou calving. Thanks.

  7. Posted by Northern Guy on

    So the HTO blockades the runway in protest of the mine and then complains when the mine rescinds a benefit they had been providing!?! Make up your minds this is getting embarassing.

    • Posted by Not Quite Accurate on

      Some of the hunters who blockaded the airstrip were members of the MHTO but, in a CBC interview, Eric Ootoovak, the chair of the MHTO, stated that they didn’t represent the MHTO. I think you should look at QUK when trying to figure out who called the shots on that horror show. And yes, you’re right, it’s all getting quite embarrassing.

  8. Posted by Roy Ayers on

    I get it….before Baffinland got there the local population built a road. Then they caught rides on vehicles passing by. That was after they had lunch at the cafeteria. No wonder there are problems.

  9. Posted by Complain then complain more on

    Complain when it is open, complain when it is closed.. there is always something to complain about, if you are into that kind of thing.

    • Posted by welcome to Nunavut on

      You must be new here?

  10. Posted by Can’t have your cake and eat it too… on

    So once they start to follow the covid rules. HTO goes crying. Once the mine tries to advance. You blockade and protest their road eating away at their profits. Want more money, want to save gas and be lazy to drive a couple hundred kilometres?

    Ever since covid hit last year. There should have been zero contact with the mine and local “hunters”. Since it has been reported they have been having this kind of contact between local people and the mine operations, both the mine owners and HTO should be taken to court for allowing this covid contact to go on.

  11. Posted by Mark Christie on

    It isn’t necessary to be totally fit Baffinland or totally against it. It is possible to see the benefits offered and compare that with the harm that mining does. It is possible to hear what the company claims and what their track record is in the rest of the world. Then take that knowledge and make an educated decision on what is best for Nunavut.

  12. Posted by Concerned on

    So the hunters can go over land .the caribou hunting is closed are you hunting flying seals over the land . Stop complaining . Seems that’s all we here these days . You have a very environmental friendly mine there . And they treat everybody really good

  13. Posted by Defiant on

    Sounds like Pond Inlet have dodged many bullets here. Who is not being honest? They have been supporting the hunter when the public has been told there is no contact with the community since March of 2020. However the HTO are admitting they are hoping on rides and eating in the cafeteria. This means that the public is in contact with the miners and if there is a spread into the community it won’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.
    It is hard to believe that the same people that are against the mine moving into the next phase which by the way is normal if a person understood the development of such a project, a company invest in the project with plans to increase production from day one, that’s where profit comes from.
    Sounds to me that there is hidden agenda’s behind all off this. We cry now that they are closing the access for hunter yet the hunters are probably the same people that were sitting on the runway.
    The shut down will be good for the caribou, it will give them a chance to breathe. Other option is to have open season as many want and sooner than later the heard will be depleted beyond a chance to reproduce.
    Our main problem with the caribou is over hunting, yes its your right to hunt but when you see 6 you don’t have to shoot 6. Take only what you need not what’s in your sight. We need to conserve to be able to feed our families for years to come.

  14. Posted by Really on

    No mention of how hard it is for the workers who now can’t go to work and are getting paid $0 to be at home. But we’re supposed to feel bad that you, the skilled hunter, can’t figure out how to get out onto the land without the help of the mine you’re trying to shutter. Excuse my bitterness here.

  15. Posted by Me on

    NLCA states no Inuk will be prevented from hunting….

    • Posted by Confused on

      This isn’t prevention, it’s just not accomidation any more. Big difference.

  16. Posted by Paul on

    Cracks me up…. Can’t win for losing. Got the locals wanting to stop the expansion because it will affect the wildlife AND impact traditional ways. YET they want to hop a ride on ore trucks to get them out on the land… yup that’s what grandfather did! As for the iron dust on the tote road.., BS! There is dust but it’s road dust from the trucks travelling on the road, there is no ore dust along that road. Been travelling that road for years. Built a rail line across Canada and it didn’t hurt the animals, biggest threat to the wildlife is the locals. Who will slaughter the caribou if the get them all in one spot then blame the white msn for no caribou… cracks me up. Simple, let’s give the locals the opportunity to live like forefathers. Take the guns, tents, motorized toys and sat phones etc…. Stop the subsidies. I’m a firm believer in giving a man a choice. Pretty sure when the lights, heat and hand outs stop there will be a rail. Sorry not trying to offend but say it like it is.

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