Nunavut communities oppose Baffinland’s motion to restart final hearing in October

Nunavut Impact Review Board to rule on motion “as soon as practicable”

Communities affected by the proposed phase two expansion of Baffinland’s Mary River mine say they want a motion from Baffinland to resume the final public hearing on Oct. 30 to be dismissed. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

North Baffin mayors and hunters are calling for the dismissal of a motion from Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. to resume the two-week final public hearing on the Mary River mine’s expansion on Oct. 30.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board asked interveners to provide feedback on the motion by Aug. 11.

In a joint submission, the mayors and Hunters and Trappers Organization chairs of Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Clyde River and Sanirajak opposed the motion.

“We submit that it would be premature to schedule a hearing until such time as a technical meeting and pre-hearing conference are held to determine whether the proposal is sufficient to be heard at a hearing, and to determine issues such as the timing, location and format of a hearing. It would also be inappropriate for the NIRB to determine next steps based on a motion from Baffinland,” the letter reads.

The letter reiterates points made in an earlier joint submission on July 31 from the communities opposing NIRB’s proposal to resume the review process.

“We submit that the community voices and our concerns are being drowned out by the proponent and now the minister. We submit that scheduling further process steps absent input from communities, while at the same time demonstrating a responsiveness to the proponent’s requests, represents a major misstep in the NIRB’s process,” the letter states.

In November 2019, the final public hearing on Baffinland’s proposed phase two expansion of its Mary River mine was abruptly adjourned after Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk brought forward a motion to immediately suspend the final public hearing and defer its continuation for eight months to one year.

Technical meetings were then originally set to be held in March, but were cancelled due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The meetings were supposed to resume on April 24 via teleconference but were cancelled again because of opposition from interveners.

Oceans North and the World Wildlife Fund Canada also made submissions opposing the motion.

In its submission, the Government of Nunavut said it “does not oppose the motion” and defers to the NIRB to decide on next steps.

In its submission, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency also left the decision up to the NIRB’s discretion.

QIA, NTI urge NIRB to engage with communities

In its submission, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association wrote that the review process, starting with technical meetings, should resume as soon as possible.

“This resumption must, however, consider concerns of procedural fairness and the requirement for appropriate consultation with Inuit,” the QIA’s letter states.

“QIA suggests that NIRB’s considerable discretion over its own process and rules allows it to accommodate these concerns regarding the technical meeting while still achieving the objective of an efficient hearing process.”

Regarding the motion, QIA said it “strongly urges” the NIRB to consider the July 31 letter from the communities when determining the proposed date for the public hearing to resume.

“QIA strongly urges the NIRB give due consideration to the July 31, 2020 letter from the mayors and HTO chairmen of Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Sanirajak, Arctic Bay, and Clyde River when determining if the proposed date for resumption of the public hearing is suitable.”

In its submission, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. also cautioned the NIRB about its consultation with communities.

“Given the potential for Inuit rights to be affected, NIRB’s application of the principles of procedural fairness to this process requires a high degree of Inuit involvement and community engagement,” NTI’s letter states.

NTI also said that technical meetings, community roundtables and a pre-hearing conference should be held before the final public hearing.

“Under the circumstances, NIRB should engage the parties on next steps and only proceed with adequate notice and an enhanced process.”

Concerning the motion, NTI said the NIRB should not schedule a date for the final public hearing “without first evaluating the results of the technical meeting, community roundtable and pre- hearing conference and assessing whether there is enough consensus on the issues to warrant a public hearing.”

“The public hearing should only be scheduled once NIRB is satisfied regarding the readiness of the phase two proposal for a public hearing,” the letter states.

In an email to Nunatsiaq News, Karen Costello, the NIRB’s executive director, did not specify when the NIRB would rule on the motion, but said “the board plans to convene shortly thereafter and issue its ruling as soon as practicable.”

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