Nuluujaat Land Guardians credit Vandal with ‘listening hard and well’ on Baffinland expansion
Opponents of Mary River mine expansion express ‘generous and grateful thanks’ to officials responsible for turning down project
The Nuluujaat Land Guardians — the group that blockaded Baffinland’s Mary River mine in 2021 to protest its proposed expansion — thanked federal cabinet ministers “for listening hard and well to Inuit” after they turned down the project last week.
The organization, led by hunters in Pond Inlet, issued a statement Tuesday in response to federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal’s decision to accept a recommendation from the Nunavut Impact Review Board to not allow Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s so-called Phase 2 expansion.
As northern affairs minister, Vandal had the final say on the project, but he consulted with four other federal cabinet ministers.
The group credited Vandal and the other federal ministers for “recognizing our right to hold to account organizations involved in mining and how it impacts our lands.”
The guardians group also expressed “generous and grateful thanks” to their family members for supporting them while they took a stand against what they allege is contamination at the Mary River iron mine, about 150 kilometres southwest of Pond Inlet.
The group also commended hunters and trappers organizations and the NIRB panel involved in evaluating the proposal over the past four years.
In 2018, Baffinland formally applied to NIRB, the board responsible for assessing the social and economic impact of development proposals in Nunavut, to double the production of iron ore at Mary River mine.
To do that, it planned to build a 110-kilometre railway from the mine to Milne Inlet, construct a new dock and increase the number of ships allowed in the area.
The guardians group opposed the proposed mine expansion, saying more boats, trucks and trains would scare away caribou and narwhal that Inuit in the area depend on for sustenance.
In February 2021, the group staged a protest at the mine for about a week, bringing its operations to a standstill and reportedly costing the company $14 million.
The guardians commended Nunavut’s NDP MP Lori Idlout, who they said is “working hard to support the authority of Inuit.”
In the statement, the group vowed to continue monitoring the land and to continue legal avenues for cleaning up what it alleges is contamination at the Mary River site.
Asked about the guardians’ statement, Baffinland also expressed its own thanks to its supporters.
“We are equally grateful to those community members that have engaged constructively to share their concerns and questions, many of which resulted in positive changes to our plans,” Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman said.
He cited the economic benefits the company has brought to Nunavut, including $100 million in wages to Inuit and $1.5 billion to Inuit firms since 2015.
“Phase 2 was the mechanism to create a sustainable future for our business and for communities, while addressing the concerns we have heard related to possible impacts on wildlife, the environment, and Inuit participation,” he said.
Baffinland said it will continue to work with Inuit to manage dust through its own environmental management system and through systems developed under the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s Inuit Stewardship Plan.