North Baffin communities say Baffinland, QIA agreement headed for “rough ride”
Mayors write letter criticizing consultation process on benefit agreement, mine expansion
A letter from the North Baffin communities affected by Baffinland Iron Mine Corp.’s proposed expansion of its Mary River mine claims the recently signed Inuit Certainty Agreement is “headed for a rough ride.”
The letter, released yesterday evening, is signed by the mayors and hunting and trapping association chair people of five communities, but the letter states it is written by the “North Baffin community group.”
Those communities are Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Sanirajak, Arctic Bay and Clyde River.
“The proposed expansion of the Mary River iron ore mine on the northern tip of Baffin Island is about to pit five Inuit communities, affected by the proposal, against their own regional Inuit association,” the letter states.
The Inuit Certainty Agreement, recently signed by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Baffinland, is a multimillion-dollar benefits agreement and would amend the current Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement between the QIA and the mine.
The ICA has 34 sections that outline direct community benefits, Inuit oversight of the project and expanded programming for the communities affected by the mine’s proposed expansion.
In an interview with Nunatsiaq News when the ICA was released, QIA president P.J. Akeeagok said the ICA was developed from what the QIA heard from communities through public hearings and community consultations.
The letter states otherwise.
“The agreement, signed without consent of the affected communities, appears headed for a rough ride,” the letter states.
The letter also states that a phone call held among the affected communities on July 17 “revealed considerable discomfort with the agreement.”
“Not satisfied with research conducted into potential impacts of the project, affected communities want the environmental assessment process to slow down. Both Baffinland and the QIA, supposedly representing Inuit interests, stand to benefit financially from the proposed development,” the letter claims.
The potential impacts of the expansion include threats to narwhal and caribou populations, the letter states.
The Nunavut Impact Review Board recently rejected a motion from Baffinland to restart the final public hearing on its phase two expansion of its Mary River mine on Oct. 30.
In its decision, the NIRB acknowledged that North Baffin community members and organizations need more time to prepare for the next steps in the process and discuss the new ICA, as outlined in an earlier letter sent to the NIRB from HTO chairs and mayors.
The letter also states the communities are voicing their concerns to the NIRB and the federal cabinet ministers ultimately responsible for acting on the board’s recommendations.
In an email to Nunatsiaq News on Aug. 13, a QIA spokesperson outlined 13 meetings held between the QIA and the respective HTOs and hamlets to discuss the ICA. The earliest meeting listed is June 24 and the latest listed is July 22.
Meetings between the QIA and the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization were postponed because of limited attendance on July 21 and because the community was unable to attend on July 22, the spokesperson said.
These meeting were held mostly by video conference, the spokesperson said.
“These meetings were each several hours long and conducted predominantly in Inuktitut to allow community leaders to discuss the Inuit Certainty Agreement clause by clause,” the spokesperson said in an email.
More to come.
A previous version of this story said the letter was signed by the mayors of Igloolik and Pond Inlet. In fact, the letter was signed by the mayors of Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Sanirajak, Arctic Bay and Clyde River, as well as the chairs of the hunting and trapping associations from those communities.