North Baffin hunters call for 10-year freeze on Baffinland mine expansion

Pond Inlet latest hamlet to express support for proposal to expand Mary River iron mine

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Three north Baffin hunters and trappers associations are calling for a ban on increased ore production at Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River mine.

The hunters and trappers associations for Hall Beach, Igloolik and Arctic Bay want the Nunavut Impact Review Board to stop the mine from increasing its ore production for 10 years. They also want the review board to recommend against allowing the mining company’s expansion proposal. NIRB is responsible for evaluating the social and economic impacts of developments projects, such as a mine expansion, and making a recommendation to the federal government about whether a proposal should be approved.

The Hall Beach and Igloolik HTAs also want the company to be barred from building and operating a port at Steensby Inlet. The company was granted a project certificate to do so in 2012.

The hunters and trappers associations spelled out these positions in closing statements sent to the review board on Monday.

As it stands, Baffinland is permitted to ship six million tonnes of iron ore a year from Milne Inlet. The company wants to double its shipments and to build a 110-km railroad between the mine and Milne Inlet and a dock at the port.

More than two years after the board’s public hearings on the proposed mine expansion began, hunter representatives continue to raise a range of concerns about the environmental impact of the mine’s operations.

Arctic Bay’s Ikajutit HTA chairperson Qaumajuq Oyukuluk said the impacts of the expansion could be “devastating.”

“We must be cautious and fully understand the impacts of the existing operation and steps needed to mitigate negative impacts before rushing forward and expanding this development,” Oyukuluk wrote in the association’s statement.

Clyde River Mayor Alan Cormack and Nangmautaq HTA chairperson Apiusie Apak, in a joint closing statement, did not specifically call for a moratorium.

But they said affected communities need time to determine if decreases to narwhal stock and other environmental problems are due to mining, before any increase in shipping is allowed.

Under the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, the review board has the ability to recommend a condition, such as a moratorium, to the federal northern affairs minister, who can then approve the new condition even if a project is already approved.

Karen Costello, executive director of the review board, said the last time she can recall the board receiving submissions for a moratorium was for Areva’s Kiggavik uranium mining project, which didn’t get approved.

Costello, who would not comment directly on Baffinland’s ongoing proposal, said the board has never issued a project certificate containing a moratorium.

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association does not support the expansion, either, and referred to the ongoing impacts brought up by HTAs.

The mine is slowly building its way up to a 30-million-tonne project and Inuit are still figuring out what the six-million-tonne project is doing to the environment, read the association’s closing statement.

“Inuit are only beginning to experience the scope of impacts of the initial project,” the statement reads, adding that there are increasing concerns that the plans Baffinland has in place to mitigate impacts are not working.

Some organizations and hamlets involved are starting to support the expansion, however.

Pond Inlet Mayor Joshua Arreak, in the hamlet’s final statement, listed a number of benefits the mine has brought or will bring to the community, including more than $16 million paid in wages to residents since 2015 and the commitment to a $10-million Inuit training centre if the expansion is approved.

The deadline for Baffinland’s final submission is Jan. 24. The board will then decide if it has enough information to make its recommendation and close the hearing.

It’s up to Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal to approve or reject the project after he receives the board’s recommendation.

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(25) Comments:

  1. Posted by Where are you Recinos? on

    How come we never hear from the Mayor of Igloolik anymore? He used to be very vocal and outspoken about the development of the mine.

      • Posted by Where are you Recinos? on

        Indeed, I recall this. There has be no information or follow up on that story since, though. So I was unsure what became of him.

        Did he resign? Was he removed? Judging by your name that seems to be the case?

        Nunatsiaq, are you planning to follow up on this, or are we too far gone for that now?

        • Posted by Good observation on

          You are right. These aren’t “victimless crimes” if there is such a thing. Someone’s son or daughter would have been impacted and these types of things have a history of getting buried and forgotten, until they happen again. Nunatsiaq, could you do a follow up?

  2. Posted by Stop every mine in Nunavut on

    It should be the whole Nunavut not just Baffin Island can’t you government see we’re slowly rotating away from the moon that keeps us rotating around, I believe it straight from my heart that mining is the issue why our climate is getting worse every year, I just hope someone understands what I am trying to say and try to do something about it.

  3. Posted by What other jobs are there on

    One thing that perplexes me is that there no other realistic option for careers in the north. As some of you don’t know, in the next 10 years there will be 10 000 young inuit entering the work force…10 000!!! I have a commerce degree and an Mba working in the north, I am equipped to compete for jobs. These 10 000 youth may not be as fortunate as some of us have been.

    Where else can they find amazing 6 figure income AND stay in their communities. I know the impact of the herds and fishing will be felt, I wholeheartedly admit there will be impact.

    But the future of Nunavut is in these mines, the potential is huge for financial wealth for Nunavut residents. I just feel sad for many youth who have had zero chance in life, this mine is a ticket to a much better life for them.

    • Posted by Innovator on

      Wow, your writing and lack of strategic thinking does not suggest an MBA education, let alone a degree in commerce.

    • Posted by Huh? on

      And in 20 years when the animals are gone and it’s too late, the 10,000 youth cannot eat money.

      • Posted by Fact checker on

        “When the Caribou are gone”
        The Caribou will adapt like many other animals around train tracks in the south. Do you think ALL the Caribou will come to a railroad and die? The Caribou are mostly in danger due to hunting. Sure it is the traditional way but traditionally on average we didn’t live long enough to see 40.

        • Posted by Statistics. on

          The reason average lifespan was 40 years old is because infant mortality was so high. It’s not that people only made it to 40, people lived to 60, 70, 80. But so many babies died that it made the average lifespan 40ish years.

      • Posted by Northern Baffin on

        No they can’t but it will allow them to buy food at the stores, which will never go away, and buy equipment to hunt all other animals. i don’t really think the animals will turn extinct, they may change locations, which we will go to anyway.
        its not like once there’s a small change, we’re doomed…..

  4. Posted by Heard this before on

    Broken record. Bim should ge happy with what they have, work to improve, and follow through with old promises. Make good first, or be forever labeled crook. But their actions are already crooks.

    Everyone shake hands and nod approval to qia for jumping ship.

  5. Posted by Baffinland Employee on

    With suicide rates up to the highest level’s ever under young Inuit people and future job opportunities not being available you all should vote against this expansion!!! But when they cancel it don’t come begging for help because you can’t feed your children or groceries will be unaffordable. When are you people finally wake up and start living in the 21st century???
    I 100% agree traditions should never disappear, but it won’t keep food on your table, medication available or fresh water to drink. Instead of all coming together and see how you as a community can make that place successful and be part of the wealth you chose to fight this. Narwhal hunting doesn’t pay your bills..doesnt keep food on the table..
    The opportunity is there..grab it now you can or I predict that your area will be bankrupt within 3 year’s..
    Tell that to your children..when they starve to death..

  6. Posted by Truestory on

    Oh no. Back to “Income Support” in the future I guess. Freakin dictator wannabes ruining our chances to become financially secure.

  7. Posted by Aputi on

    Just expand the mine, stop complaining about being hungry,put on your big boy pants and support your family instead of waiting for social assistance and child tax, the more money they make, the more goes to government equal potential houses

  8. Posted by JOHN ELL on

    Nunavumiut Maligaliutit maligaliutusat Nunavut-mi AQUTINGIT qiqumit sanasimajuksat aquumi pujuq siamangijuuminiamat.

  9. Posted by Jim on

    I don’t understand the advantages to Inuit of mine expansion. It means that the jobs will be available for 1/2 as long if the production increases as planned in the mine expansion. Pond Inlet Mayor Joshua Arreak mentions that the mine has meant $16,000,000 for Pond Inlet since 2015. That’s about $4 per day for each resident. Is the environmental risks, social disruption and cultural diminishment worth $4/day?

    • Posted by Look at the real numbers on

      1/2 as long? The mine goes into care and maintenance on hopes that the iron ore price will rise to make it profitable. If the expansion doesn’t go through it’s a roll of the dice of who will even have jobs! There are multiple large deposits of iron ore surrounding the existing mine that can sustain the mine for decades at high yearly shipping volumes. If allowed to become profitable, Baffinland can improve on its sustainable initiatives and also become a generational mine. These are not small deposits, they are massive and the highest quality in the world.

  10. Posted by Sailfish on

    Glad they are finally talking about the closer of the mine I hope it will leave it closed forever. Mother Nature is hurting and all you sailfish people are doing nothing but destroying our land and thinking that it’s good for it cause it makes lots of money ? mines been operated for over a century and now that climate is getting worse every year y’all are so wealthy over money! Like why do we take from the land when the land is our living grounds I am the only one who’s trying to warn you guys about it cause you guys are too wealthy over 4,000 a paycheck. And not worrying about our own land so sad

  11. Posted by oh my on

    The comments have to be some of the most absurd I have ever read on any topic. ” you can’t eat money” – no but you can buy food ” 4000 pay check” and there is something wrong about having a job with good pay. There are constant complaints about breaking away from “colonialism” and being controlled. Solid jobs and good pay will lead to independence, and freedom from the social system which you constantly criticize but for some strange reason want to remain dependent on. Oh yes watch out for spinning away or towards the moon, digging a hole in the earth is causing that. That is truly a science base rendering. If you don’t want to work at least allow those that do have the opportunity.

    • Posted by Let’s dig… on

      I have a better idea. Let me go to your backyard at your house and I’ll start digging, and whoever wants to dig with me can, if you don’t like it then tough, let those who wants to dig at your place do.

      • Posted by wow on

        You must have one hell of a big back yard which encompasses thousands of sq miles. That’s hardly your backyard.

  12. Posted by Broken record on

    Every time the mine is mentioned everyone talks about stopping the expansion because it is hurting the narwhal population and animal herds. At the same time, those same people say nothing about Baffin fisheries. If you want to shut down Baffin land mines then I think it’s only fair to shit down Baffin fisheries. They have just bought the largest factory freezer vessel in North America I do believe. When they fish shrimp they not only catch all the fish they do want they take fish they don’t want. They destroy the ecosystem on the ocean floor. They will be over fishing the waters off of Greenland and Labrador which will have just so big of a negative impact on the way of life of the Inuit people as the Baffin land mine has. You can’t have one without the other.

    • Posted by Opportunities lost on

      Take a close look at the hunter associations and their members. How many are on Baffin Fisheries payroll? Take another close look at the Nuluujaaq Land Guardians and their relatives as well. This whole debacle has less to do with ‘living off the land’ and more to do with rich inuit trying to get richer. They have little concern for members of their communities that need a decent paying job at Baffinland and have no other opportunities locally. Stopping the expansion will cause the mine to shut down and will only cause a mass exodus of Inuit youth to the south in search of any kind of employment.

  13. Posted by Jimmy on

    Caribou have been declining since 1990.

    100k caribou 1990 according to Canada census report.
    Now less then 3000 since 2008 census.

    Hrmmm what happened then??
    Skidoo and overhunting


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