Northern affairs minister meets with Mary River mine protesters

Dan Vandal calls it a positive meeting

Federal Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, seen in a file photo, says his meetings with Baffinald were “entirely appropriate” because they occurred before the official process to assess the company’s mine expansion proposal began. (File photo)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The federal Department of Northern Affairs and its minister, Dan Vandal, met with representatives of a group opposed to a proposed mine expansion that is currently undergoing a hearing with the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

The group of hunters from north Baffin communities, who call themselves the Nuluujaat Land Guardians, blockaded the tote road and airstrip at Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River mine during a public hearing into the company’s expansion plans in February.

Baffinland wants to double the mine’s output, as well as construct a railway and port, but opponents believe that activity will have a negative effect on the surrounding environment, which includes a marine conservation area.

Both Vandal and the opponents of the mine expansion said their meeting, which was over the phone on May 27, was positive.

A statement the guardians issued afterward said both sides agreed not to speak about Baffinland’s proposed expansion.

“Guardians spoke about the strengths and values of their communities and land-based economic options for current and future generations of north Baffin residents,” reads a June 2 statement from the group. They want Vandal to understand “the choices and preferences of residents who do not wish to be involved in mining,” their statement said.

Vandal’s press secretary, Antoine Tremblay, said the department regularly meets with organizations that operate in the North, “including those interested in the Baffinland project proposal,” such as the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Oceans North.

“However, the Minister does not meet on those projects while the Board conducts its hearings, to ensure the Board’s process remains independent and arms-length,” Tremblay wrote in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

When speaking to reporters in April, Vandal confirmed he had met with Baffinland prior to the review board’s January session — which was a resumption of the November 2019 hearing — calling it “entirely appropriate” because it occurred while there were no current sessions.

“When they [Baffinland] ask for a meeting with the minister of northern affairs, I think it’s entirely appropriate that we meet and we talk about the issues,” he said.

While the Nunavut Impact Review Board is between sessions in its hearing on the Mary River mine, its assessment of the expansion is ongoing. For example, opponents of the mine’s expansion plan submitted documents in mid-May regarding a document Baffinland submitted on narwhal monitoring programs, according to NIRB. Baffinland had until June 4 to reply.

Tremblay did not clarify when the northern affairs department considers the public hearing into the Mary River mine expansion to have begun, or how it qualifies an adjournment in the process.

In April, in the House of Commons, Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq hinted that it would be unfair for the minister to meet with representatives from Baffinland, but not the land guardians, even “after multiple requests.”

“Reconciliation requires meaningful interaction with Inuit. Instead, the Liberals are ignoring requests to provide transparency and fulfill their obligations. Has the minister or his staff met with the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation in the last six months?” Qaqqaq asked on April 16.

— With files from Corey Larocque

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(24) Comments:

  1. Posted by EXPAND THE MINE on

    The people of Nunavut need to understand that if we ever want to develop as a territory we need something to drive the economy. Expanding these mines could provide the territory with money to help with overcrowding, mental health issues, education, and everything people here continue to suffer through. Yes the environmental effects of these mines are unfortunate but we cannot continue denying change or else our people will continue to suffer!

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    • Posted by Jj on

      Could you imagine the mental, physical health and hunger issues in an isolated Inuit population if there was nothing to hunt? Also, since the beginning of BIM there has been no related change in the housing situation. Please be realistic.

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      • Posted by Seriously? on

        Do you honestly think if we had money to build mental health and addictions facilities in every community that our issues would get worse? We cant keep worrying about the effects of progress when our communities are already suffering! The mental health issues in the territory RIGHT NOW are far greater than they would be with for funding for addictions and mental heath facilities, WHICH THE MINES WILL HELP WITH.

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        • Posted by Peter on

          How long has BIM been in opperation? How many ‘facilities’ have they promised? How many have materialized? What is the percentage of inuit working there even before covid? Pillow talk

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          • Posted by Duh… on

            They can’t build facilities if they aren’t making enough money. That’s kinda why they want to expand these mines in the first place.

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      • Posted by Miner 49er on

        Actually, there has been some housing improvement due to BIM. Some Inuit residents of North Baffin communities who worked at BIM moved to Hamilton, where they rent or buy houses for much less than they could in Nunavut, if houses were available. It is progress, of a sort…

      • Posted by Be Honest on

        Those who have money hunt. Those who don’t try get jobs at a mine.

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  2. Posted by affected community member on

    Can the minister meet with anyone who supports the mine? Can we ask who the “representative” of the NLGuardians was?
    there ARE people who support this mine, nobody hears their voices.
    So are the NLGuardians going to support with free food and gas for hunting, or loss of wage subsidy if people lose thier jobs because of this?

    What’s going on with the lawsuit against the Guardians? Too many unanswered questions.

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  3. Posted by Truestory on

    Will someone please explain to me, how train tracks would be difficult for the caribou, or other wildlife to walk over the train tracks? Or how the dust will increase if on steel tracks?

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  4. Posted by Concerned on

    We are seeing micro dust and it’s going to get worse, the lakes will die off over time and fish and other wildlife will be
    greatly affected and it’s scary all of our drinking water across Nunavut will be affected since none of them are enclosed
    with a roof. It would help if the stock pile was in a enclosed structure also the general health of nunavumiut I see it in the
    long run will be affected. Micro dust can travel vast distances.

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    • Posted by Sheba on

      I think it is called the same in animals, hemochromotosis, iron poisioning

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    • Posted by Truestory on

      Thats it? Thats your explanation? Not very much. If the train is a
      approved, the haul trucks would be taken out. Less dust with a train. We breath micro dust daily. Nothing new about that.

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  5. Posted by Uyarak on

    Mary River Mine continues to say Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit matter and that Inuit voice matter. Saying something and doing something are two different things. The Mary River mining company do not cover their tote trucks when delivering the worlds richest iron ore from A to Z on Baffin island. Everyone who works at the mine site knows very well the red iron ore dust fly everywhere on the land, the lakes, the ponds, the ocean. It touches every inch of the land, the plants, the animals and all the sea animals. Mining company offer big bucks to Inuit organization for a clean up fee and maybe put a bit of money a side for future savings. Most of the income from this mine site goes to Europe. You and I, as Nunavut beneficiaries may never see a cent out of any royalties from Mary River mine. I spoke to the person responsible for highering Inuit, the job opportunities for Inuit are janitor, house keeper and cook assistant, 12 hours shifts for 3 weeks. Inuit living in the south can apply but not the Inuit from the Nunavut communities, not yet, due to covid19 restrictions. I asked if there are jobs to offer Inuit positions like tote truck driver, machanic, office manager, somewhere in that catagory? They were not aware as it was not in their department. Mary River Mine wants to work with Inuit? Let Independent Inuit group seat next to the decision makers of the mine, given true respect and a same equal voice, not directed as a puppet and just be given the title Inuit work with Mary River Mining company.
    The good side to Mary River mine? When Inuit face uncertainties, such as someone is lost out there in the arctic oceans near baffin island, the Mary River does contribute to assisting in search and rescue. This shows they care. I hope to see the Mary River Mine cares about the land, the animals and the people who are effected by it . Be respectful and honest with Inuit. Listen and pay attention to what Inuit are saying. Maybe then, Inuit will start to respect Mary River mine and their employees. Remember Inuit were always on these lands, our parents and now us, travel these sea waters to catch our food, we rely on these resources that come from these lands and the waters near Baffin Island. Mary River Mine company is a visitor. Nuluujat is Inuit Own Land. Qujannamik, Uyarak.

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  6. Posted by Let’s look to Alaksa on

    Why do you think beneficiaries of the Inupiaq tribe of Alaksa are so rich? They don’t need government bailouts, they can afford to pay everything out of their own pockets and yet still live a traditional lifestyle if they want. A solid mining industry, a solid Oil & Gas industry and a solid economy are all things that should make us jealous of the Inupiaq and Yupik peoples for doing things right.

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  7. Posted by Aputi on

    mary river treat its employees alot better than agnico eagle, we are able to speak our language on work radio unlike agnico were we get told not to and yet most of them speaks french on radio, never had problems at mary river good people to work with too

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    • Posted by Optics and Politics on

      To placate our MP, who, if you follow her twitter rants, seems to think theirs is the only opinion held by any Inuk in Nunavut…

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  8. Posted by derek marshall on

    Some people have educated themselves to the pros and cons of mine expansion and made their minds up. Others speak and make comments with no knowledge of what they are talking about. You could end up with nothing. Which is possible in this situation. The owners of Mary River have clearly said that mine equipment will be removed on this sea lift. Also they just could mothball the mine. If that’s what the people in Nunavut want. Go for it. More welfare.

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    • Posted by Julian Vee on

      But those of us who have educated ourselves about the pros and cons of this mine expansion, and oppose it, do so for the same reason : because of the expansion, “we could end up with nothing.” I guess it depends on how you define nothing. I also don’t think the mine is the only thing that will provide me with something

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