Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. “not prepared” to support Baffinland iron mine expansion, says CEO

Kilikvak Karen Kabloona says NTI wants more Inuit knowledge included in environmental assessment

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. plans to not support a proposed expansion of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River mine, its CEO told the board of directors Tuesday in Baker Lake. (Screen shot from NTI webinar)

By Jane George

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s chief executive officer says NTI is “not prepared” to support the proposed expansion of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River iron mine.

CEO Kilikvak Karen Kabloona made the statement Tuesday at NTI’s board of directors meeting in Baker Lake.

“NTI will also continue to advocate for changes in the review process that maximize Inuit engagement and press the [Nunavut Impact Review Board] to fulfill their procedural fairness and consultation obligation,” she said.

Baffinland wants to build a 110-kilometre railway from Mary River to Milne Inlet, double its ore production, and increase ship transits to 176 each season.

In February, a group of protesters from Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet blockaded the Mary River tote road and airstrip.

Their blockade ended after a week when Baffinland sought an injunction in Nunavut court. Since that protest, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s board of directors, which represents Inuit in the region, resolved to not support the expansion.

Kabloona said NTI’s staff and management wants the review process include more respect for Inuit oral testimonies “in addition to complying with the Nunavut Agreement and the Nunavut Planning and Assessment Act.”

Responding to questions from board members, Kabloona said the decision was based on technical and procedural concerns with the environmental assessment.

Kabloona said NTI staff will still participate in the NIRB hearings, slated to resume in April.

She said her organization will continue to try to resolve these issues and ask the NIRB to incorporate a process for Inuit oral testimonies, she said.

“COVID makes it more difficult but we still expect it to happen,” Kabloona said.

NTI vice-president James Eetoolook criticized current mine activity in the region, saying they have saying  affected marine mammals and fish.

He said the expansion, if approved, will have a “huge impact on the environment,” if approved.

“It will also impact the Kitikmeot [region] as we share the same whale populations,” Eetoolook  said, “And it will impact the workers.”

Stanley Anablak, the president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and an NTI board member, told Kabloona at the meeting that he is surprised by the news that NTI was withdrawing its support.

“I thought it should come to this board in the form of a resolution,” he said.

Kabloona responded that’s not how NTI’s board typically reviews an environmental assessment.

“We have enough technical evidence that we cannot support it currently,” she said. “But there are opportunities for Baffinland and NIRB to improve their work.”

If that happens, NTI could reconsider its support, Kabloona said.

Asked to comment on NTI’s position, Baffinland said in a statement, “We continue our community outreach and seek to meet the QIA and others as soon as practicable to discuss their concerns in order to find a mutually agreeable way forward.”

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(27) Comments:

  1. Posted by Conflicting statements on

    Incorporating additional oral testimonies only convolutes and unnecessarily complicates the process as anyone can say anything, which then has to be researched and verified.

    These “oral testimonies” are taken during the town hall meetings as is prior to development or approval stages.

    Is Karen saying that the town hall meetings were either never conducted or that the statements at the events were never recorded into official transcripts? Were those oral testimonies never taken seriously?

    Does NTI staff specialists or dedicated staff that can comprehend the technical details better than locals or NIRB?

    It seems as local people and NIRB will have to wait on NTI to catch up on the process.
    NTI is looking to become involved in a process that historically doesn’t require their involvement as the Nunavut Agreement outlines that sort of duty for NIRB, NWMB, etc

    • Posted by St. Patrick on

      To be fair this is an opportunity not to be missed by NTI. By asserting itself into the process it can enhance its profile and the appearance of its relevance in what is currently a major issue. Considering the moribund engagement in its most recent election, it needs to do this.

      As should be expected it is relying on well worn symbols of identity recited liturgically: ”oral testimony’ and ‘traditional knowledge.’ Good luck plumbing the philosophical depths of meaning here, I suspect you will find little more than clouds of nebula wide open to whatever rorshach-ian interpretation one might dream up.

    • Posted by Catherine Ritchie on

      This must not move forward until the residents of this land have had their say. My personal belief is that there should be no further disruption to this land by any for profit company. Period. Save our nature and the people who are a part of nature

      • Posted by Ingrid Buday on

        I agree completely with this statement. We have abused the people and the land and the environment they depend on. The noise from the ships will certainly an impact in the oceans and the railway will have an impact on their hunting. Even the employees of the mine wrote a letter saying it is their land.

        These people deserve to be respected and their way of life retained. Our needs do not override theirs.

        • Posted by John on

          While a society based solely on hunting, fishing, arts and crafts may sound great, I think it leaves out options for Inuit who want to do something different. Kids who want to learn about science, technology, engineering and math or grow up to be health care professionals, tradespersons, lawyers, businesspersons, etc… Mining is an industry interested in providing training and creating opportunities within Nunavut for Nunavummiut. If mining is not an acceptable industry, what other industry is acceptable? Candy bar factories, furniture factories and automotive factories aren’t exactly knocking at the door to build in Nunavut. Maybe a fishing/seafood company would be interested but they too would be accused of disturbing wildlife and taking away opportunities from small hunters. We want children to dream of what is possible but by restricting their opportunities within Nunavut we constrain too many children to only the possibilities of being a hunter, fisherman, craftsperson or dysfunctional government job. Either that or move out of Nunavut to someplace where those possibilities exist (aka “the brain drain” where those with other ambitions have to move elsewhere to find their own version of success).

  2. Posted by accountability on

    It has become evident Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. are failing the Inuit of Baffin Island that they profess to represent. Inuit of Pond Inlet showed true courage in protesting the blatant breaches of the terms Baffinland was supposed to follow. It is only because of this courage that we are now witnessing both Akeeagook and Aluki no longer supporting the next phase of Baffinland’s project. They both have been caught in bed with this system and now are you only seeing this change in approach. Either there is a disconnect somewhere within the regulatory system and the Executive department of both Inuit Organizations or these two leaders just ignored all of the monitoring reports. Where are the monitoring reports, have they or were they purposely written to allow no alarm QIA and NTI executive or was it just ignorance to allow for its bank account to grow albeit on the expense of Inuit and their livelihood. These questions need to be answered. Someone has to be accountable for this.

  3. Posted by Ian on

    here we go again,not enough info,you notice these,nti,dios, are totally ignoring,the illegal caribou harvesting over on the mine roads,in the nwt,and nn is silent to.

  4. Posted by Inuk Person on

    Are they still trying to determine who will win the Inuktut Writing Prize? When will they announce the winner?
    It would be nice to win 80k.

  5. Posted by Anonymous on

    The onus of big ‘C’ consultation falls on the proponent. The NIRB is reviewing the information (including hearing from Inuit) but it is not responsible for fulfilling the proponent’s consultation obligation.

    There is still a key disconnect here that has not been acknowledged. The final decision (whether BL proceeds or proceeds under certain terms and conditions) rests with the Federal Minister. Inuit and all the hearing parties should then ‘grill’ CIRNAC at these meetings. Has CIRNAC sat down with BaffinLand outside of the process? Is the Federal Minister using different criteria to assess whether BL application should proceed? If so, what are they and shouldn’t that be open and transparent in this NIRB process?

  6. Posted by Disrespectful on

    I guess the Boss has spoken. It sounds like the Inuit orgs dysfunction comes from the top level.
    If the board doesn’t have a say in the support of the project then the beneficiaries certainly wouldn’t.

    • Posted by accountability on

      This is all just smoke and mirrors. “Nunavummiut’s” post of a link directing readers to a NTI motion is just part and parcel of the narrative these officials hope Inuit will fall for. The CEO announcement prior to any board decision-statement is just that. It may seem like it’s dysfunctional- but it is all been played out to deceive the public. If there is no true accountability Inuit will be the losers.

  7. Posted by Where and who on

    Would be fun to see how many of these comments have IPs from BMI and Chamber of Mines offices.

    • Posted by And vice-versa on

      And conversely, how many are coming from the NTI office

  8. Posted by Ariella P. on

    Let me understand this, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s chief executive officer, NTI’s staff and management told the Board of Director’s that NTI is “not prepared” to support the proposed expansion of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River iron mine. Since when does the executive officer have the authority to make this decision? Dear NTI Board Members, what are you doing? Do you not know these decisions are exclusively yours to make and you direct your staff.
    NIRB is mandated by the legislation and the Nunavut Agreement to complete the Environmental Assessment Process. Now Kabloona and staff have procedural concerns with the environmental assessment. Where was Kabloona and her staff when the NIRB put out the notices for feedback on the process ….

    • Posted by Tabula Rasa on

      To be fair, the winds of opportunity were blowing in a different direction at that time.

    • Posted by Help Us Understand! on

      This! How does a CEO of a corporation have public input on these types of things? How is it not elected NTI officials speaking out?

      Nunatsiaq News, please publish an article about this working dynamic and help us better understand NTI! Because they sure aren’t going to lift the veil themselves.

      • Posted by Soothsayer on

        This is the unfortunate problem we have in Nunavut, and I say this with uncharacteristic charity toward Nunatsiaq’s Journalists, they are not experts in the NLCA or in the structures and governance of NTI or any of the other orgs. In fairness I’m not sure we can expect them to be either, they are mostly southerners who haven’t been in the north that long, with some exceptions of course.

        What Nunavut really needs, and what most healthy societies have, are public intellectuals who do understand the finer workings of ‘things’ and who are also willing to stand up and, in part, educate the public about them, and in part to take a position.

        My concern is that the few we do have lean toward to anti-mining narrative and might be reluctant to call out NTI for fear of being called a bad word or two or being shunned from the ‘group.’ Granted that may be part fiction, I don’t know of any who fit this role.

        The best critiques I have ever seen have been in these comments. Who remembers Putuguk, for example? Now there was some insightful commentary. This was a person who should have been writing their own column.

        Maybe Nunatsiaq could consider finding some of the more informed people from among us to add more commentary to these issues and give them that space. For the health of the polity!

  9. Posted by Sam on

    I miss the old boys club now, who is running NTI now

  10. Posted by Robert E Elliot on

    I think the underlying problem is that NIRB has not investigated nor inplemented a clear and concise process wrtten into their guidelines on how tradtional knowledge is to be incorporated into an EA. If this had been done then proponents would have a clear coikbook on how to do this.

    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      The deeper problem is that ‘traditional knowledge’ (TK) is an amorphous and imprecise term that is as symbolically representative of identity and culture as it is of relevant data.
      For example, it appears the opinions of Inuit, when framed as ‘oral testimony,’ are to be considered TK. This might be weak ground philosophically and scientifically, but for nativists and populists, it is an absolute fortress.
      What makes this interesting is that Kabloona claims NTI has “enough technical evidence that [they] cannot support (the expansion)…” I would be more interested in knowing what that evidence is, and if it is serious data or hearsay masquerading as ‘traditional knowledge.’

      • Posted by Pork Pie on

        Let me add something here too. This is not a visceral endorsement of the mine, only a caution against the gratuitous and distorted use of ‘traditional knowledge’ as a bludgeon in the service of political goals. We should at the very least know what people mean when they use these loaded terms.

      • Posted by Candy on

        Traditional knowledge can be very difficult to incorporate into this sort of process when it directly conflicts with scientific consensus, which is not uncommon. Further, it can be very difficult to resist conflating anecdotal evidence “I saw blank, therefore I believe blank” with traditional knowledge, which is, or ought to be, based on accrued intergenerational wisdom and traditional management techniques.

  11. Posted by Jesus on

    Quujaanamik, Meegutis.

  12. Posted by Fear on

    Didn’t realize NTI and QIA are so afraid of QUK. How could one tiny non-profit and a handful of protesters from Mittimatalik cause these two organizations to backtrack on all their commitments?

    • Posted by jen on

      So true

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