Nunavut board moves on stalled Mary River assessment

NIRB to decide on public hearing following conference in March

The road that runs from Mary River to Milne Inlet, near deposit number one, in a photo taken in 2015. (Baffinland photo)

By Jim Bell

The Nunavut Impact Review Board’s stalled final hearing on Baffinland’s phase two expansion proposal for its Mary River iron mine could resume after a special pre-hearing conference set for Iqaluit this March.

The review board conveyed this information to stakeholders in a letter sent on Jan. 7, fulfilling a commitment they made in mid-December.

In it, the board said they’ve scheduled meetings in Iqaluit on the issue that will stretch over a period of almost two weeks this March:

• Technical meetings from March 16 to March 20

• A community roundtable on March 23 and March 24

• A pre-hearing conference on March 25

All of those gatherings are to be held at the Frobisher Inn’s Koojesse room.

The communities of Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Hall Beach, Resolute Bay, Grise Fiord, Clyde River, Arctic Bay and Iqaluit are invited to send up to three delegates each.

It’s after that March 25 pre-hearing conference, or “PHC,” that the board will make a decision on when to resume the public hearing that adjourned in disarray this past Nov. 6.

“Following the PHC, the Board will issue a PHC decision which will provide direction to parties regarding the continuation of the Public Hearing,” the board’s letter said.

In its phase two plan, Baffinland proposes a 110-kilometre railway from Mary River to Milne Inlet, an increase in ore production from six million to 12 million tonnes per year, and up to 176 transits by ore-carrying vessels.

A public hearing on that plan started this past Nov. 2 in Iqaluit, but did not complete its work after participants became embroiled in disputes over the precise nature of Baffinland’s proposal, as well as the quality of the information the company was providing on the environmental impacts of the proposed railway and marine shipping.

As a result, the hearing fell further and further behind on its agenda each day.

And on Nov. 6, Aluki Kotierk, the president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., moved that the hearing be put on hold for a period of nine months to one year.

That, Kotierk said, would provide enough time for the company to provide answers to various questions and translate important materials.

The NIRB responded by cancelling a planned two-day community roundtable meeting that had been scheduled for Pond Inlet.

Later, it promised to set meetings in March aimed at helping stakeholders sort out all the unresolved issues left over from last November.

That appears to be consistent with a proposal Baffinland made to resume the public hearing around April 18, after the Easter weekend, following pre-hearing meetings in February or March.

However, the NIRB has yet to rule on how long the public hearing’s adjournment will last and now says it will wait until after the March 25 conference.

The abrupt adjournment of the public hearing last November sent shock waves throughout the Qikiqtani region.

Because Baffinland’s 2020 construction schedule was thrown off course, the company announced the early layoff of 586 contract workers, 96 of whom are Inuit, just before Christmas.

Later, the number of laid off Inuit workers was whittled down to only 48.

Meanwhile, the company still awaits the review board’s recommendation on a separate request to extend its six-million-tonnes-per-year production cap into 2020.

That legal limit expired on Dec. 31, and the company wants the one-year extension to maintain iron ore production at current levels for another year.

The mayors of Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Hall Beach, Igloolik and Pond Inlet all say they support extending that production limit, as long as no more Inuit are laid off.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by PondInleter on

    if the Hamlet Council, HTO, and community orgs were sincere about this, they would hold community wide consultation meetings NOW, without BIM, or QIA invovled, keep it at the community level. Write down the concerns, and put them in writing. I have a feeling that NONE of this is going to happen, and that the delegates send down will just voice what they think, and not what the community thinks as a whole.

    my thoughts..and opinion.

    • Posted by Inuk who support’s HTO on

      Sadly, you are probably right! They may have good intentions but not necessarily truly community impacted positioning.

    • Posted by Inuk who support’s HTO on

      Sadly, you are probably right!

  2. Posted by Putuguk on

    Pondinleter – I think you are on the right track and are definitely on to something. But I wonder whether Hamlets and HTOs should be holding consultations with the public when this is actually the NIRB’s job.

    It is very true that these community groups should have some basis for what they say at public hearings, and not only rely on the personal opinions of whoever they choose to send to a hearing.

    Hamlets have Economic Development Plans and Wellness Plans and many other policy documents that speak to how their community is and how they want to see their community progress. These have all been created locally. Less so for the HTOs. But if the community is well coordinated, an HTO should have been involved in Hamlet planning. At the very least, all these elected representatives are intimately aware of community issues and trends.

    Accessing all this is the great value they bring to the table in front of NIRB. It creates a much higher level of discussion than merely saying they are concerned about something; which may be the most thought given on a subject by the person on the street.

    This detailed work can point to whether they think the project is good or not, bring forth local solutions, create more benefit, limit problems, request changes to the project, and specific terms and conditions. If not, they leave this to others to impose on them.

    Community elected officials should be reviewing their guidance documents, considering where their community is at, and then figuring out how a major development such as this will affect how they see their future unfolding, and the work of their organizations. They should be doing this at regular public council and board meetings, and writing down the results. The results should be given to their representatives to say at the NIRB meeting. This all should be minuted so they are accountable to residents for the results of their deliberations.

    Other levels of government go through an internal process in order to settle on a stance on an issue. These groups should do no less given how important their role is in our environmental assessment process.

  3. Posted by Inuk who supports HTOs success on

    I hope NGO’s such as WWf are not given the same weight as HTOs or hamlets. They have deep pockets from around the world that are similar to green peace and Sea Shepard . They don’t do not really help Inuit that are in need. They help themselves and their agenda.

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