Pond Inlet residents show support for hunters protesting Mary River mine expansion

Hunters’ blockade of Baffinland’s airstrip and road enters third day

About 25 women and children protested in front of the Pond Inlet community hall last night, where the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s hearing into Baffinland’s expansion proposal have been held for the past two weeks. (Photo courtesy of Shelly Funston Elverum/Facebook)

By Jim Bell

A group of about 25 Pond Inlet women and children demonstrated in front of the Pond Inlet community hall Friday night in support of a small group of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay hunters who have been blockading the Mary River airstrip and road since Thursday night.

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River mine isn’t delivering what the company promised and it hurts women and children, said Pond Inlet resident Shelly Funston Elverum, one of the demonstrators.

The Pond Inlet community hall is where the Nunavut Impact Review Board has been conducting a public hearing for the past two weeks into Baffinland’s controversial proposal to expand its iron mine, a step the company says it needs to take to make the mine financial sustainable.

“The protest was held in front of the community hall where the meetings were taking place, so that NIRB, [Baffinland] and the regulators would come face to face with the women and children that are impacted by this project,” Funston Elverum told Nunatsiaq News.

For the past four years Baffinland has been using a truck route to haul ore from the mine. The expansion would see the construction of 110-kilometre railway, a new ship-loading facility at Milne Inlet, and 176 transits by ore-carrying vessels taking up to 12 million tonnes of iron ore per year from the mine.

But despite the potential for more Inuit jobs, benefits and royalties for the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, the project faces strong opposition from people in Pond Inlet and some other North Baffin communities.

“This protest shows that many mothers and children fundamentally disagree with Baffinland’s statements of impacts and significance, by being willing to stand in solidarity with the hunters blockading the Mary River mine and protest at -38 temperatures,” Funston Elverum said.

Funston Elverum said another protest was to have been held at noon Saturday, again in front of the community hall where the NIRB hearing continues today with presentations by intervenors.

The hunters who are camped out at the Mary River site have questioned the legitimacy of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, the NIRB and even the Hamlet of Pond Inlet.

One of the hunters said in a satellite phone call recorded in a video posted publicly on Vimeo that he and his group are protesting their treatment by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, saying QIA is not listening to them.

“It is due to the QIA’s actions on the Mary River Phase 2 project that we are protesting at Mary River. QIA has treated us haphazardly…” said the man, who is not identified in the video.

“Hunters are not considered, communities are not considered, Inuit are not considered,” the man said.

QIA, the legally recognized Inuit organization for the Baffin region, owns most of the land the project sits on and has negotiated commercial land-lease and royalty agreements, as well as an additional deal called the Inuit Certainty Agreement.

On Friday, Jack Anawak, a former Liberal MP for Nunavut and an NDP candidate in the 2015 federal election, said he supports the protest “from the sidelines.”

“I think the Inuit of Nunavut are on a verge of great change thanks to the great wisdom and determination of the people of Mittimatalik,” Anawak said in a Facebook post.

Meanwhile, David Akeeagok, Nunauvt’s minister of Economic Development and Transportation, said in a message on Facebook that he acknowledges the protest at Mary River.

But he urged people to respect the environmental assessment process set out in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and to use the opportunities that the NIRB provides Numavummiut to ensure that their voices are heard.

“Emotions are high, but we must continue to work together with respect for one another to complete the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s hearing process,” Akeeagok said.

“I firmly believe in the NIRB process as set out under the NLCA,” Akeeagok said.

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by concern man on

    This event of forcing business to shutdown is completely illegal with possibly no permit to do so. Airstrip is federal jurisdiction and law should apply accordingly. Also the norm of forcing is normal and would not help prosper economy for Nunavut. Why would individual want to get paid for this is alarming to highest bride to be. DIO can allocate the royalty properly with trust in them. Let alone of Application reveal it with no route of adversaries practice for unprofessional.

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    • Posted by North Baffin on

      Which baffinland employee are you? Or contractor? I’m Assuming you’re one of the top employee of BIM.
      And why is it legal for BIM to negatively impact Inuit way of living?

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      • Posted by Jim Bo on

        Its legal, because of the signed agreements, right, Heelee

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        • Posted by Back stabbed on

          So it’s ok to sign an agreement on behalf of 5 communities without even letting them know?
          And if ppl react to it they are the bad guys? And tell me Who signed the agreement?

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    • Posted by Concern person on

      So its ok for these inuit/hunters to block of a airstrip for incoming food planes that couldn’t land yesterday and do damage to the airstrip by burning wood therefore not letting planes in for these workers to go home to their families and they call this a peaceful protest? Where is the concern for the workers currently there? At what point are they allowed to go home or have food delivered? I call it a hostage situation as these people aren’t allowed nor able to leave while the inuit is currently carry guns to hunt. While being paid by Baffinland to mine the land.

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  2. Posted by Kivalliqmiut on

    “ But he urged people to respect the environmental assessment process set out in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and to use the opportunities that the NIRB provides Numavummiut to ensure that their voices are heard.”

    Maybe the minister of ED&T should allow their subject matter experts to speak at these environmental assessments. After watching the proceedings, it’s an embarrassment that the Government of Nunavut has the power that it does. Inuit rights will be violated on so many levels because the government doesn’t want to listen to their scientists.

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  3. Posted by Anonymous on

    Funny, the people leading this new QUK are people who have prospered from this mine, they work here at least every summer as contractors, so as long as they get what they want then it’s ok?

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    • Posted by why anonymous name? on

      You have inside knowledge? There are people from all over the world that works there as contractors. Germans, Chinese, Canadians among others. Why target specific persons? Scared?

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    • Posted by Obvious on

      If thats the case then why would they head up big support efforts to bring prosper to the community? If they are so indapendent why put so much effort to get northern communities more than seasonal monitoring jobs?

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    • Posted by They Know on

      The people organizing this have enough knowledge of what has been happening to recognize how little of the benefits of the mine are going to Inuit.
      .
      Most people just nod their head and say “OK, that sounds good.” They don’t know how bad the Mary River “deal” is.
      .
      The Investors will get all their money back. They will receive huge interest payments for the use of their money. They will also get much of their investment back through supply contracts to other businesses they own. They will make a fortune, especially if Mary River never “turns a profit”.
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      The $5 million per year in earnings for North Baffin Inuit mine workers is actually a cost saving for Mary River, compared to having to fly workers from further south.
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      Even paying Nunavut workers whie they are at home is a trivial expense for BaffinLand.
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      Billions of dollars invested in BaffinLand are actually going to southern firms. Very little is going to Inuit firms. Most of the labour dollars are going to non-North Baffin employees.
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      At the end of this mine, will Inuit have the ability to finance and operate their own mine? If not, then this is “risk the environment” for short term benefit only.

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  4. Posted by QIA exposed on

    QIA is exposed to the whole world.
    Not trusted by their own people. President, VP, Secretary-treasurer of QIA doesn’t listen to Inuit. How dare they trying to keep Inuit down! I can see other race do that to Inuit. But Inuit keeping Inuit down is a biggest low blow, worthy to be humiliated all the time.

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    • Posted by Centrist on

      How is the community director of QIA also the president of QUK? How is there such a concern for hunting cariboo for food from this elected official when he runs a business selling polar bear hunts to wealthy Europeans and Mexicans? None of this makes sense.

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      • Posted by Jay on

        Easy, they are regulated hunts with tag fees payable to the local HTO. They are regulated and monitored so the populations remain stable, while allowing hunters and community orgs to make a living 🙂

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  5. Posted by Jeeves on

    I understand the right to protest, however, let’s be clear: this is NOT peaceful when destructions of property and blocking the only way for people to get in/out!

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  6. Posted by Lucassie #67 on

    I’m with people who are blocking mining because they are right. Protecting land is priceless when taking away our land is not. I’m always against mining industry not because I dislike people but I believe it’s our land to take care of not take away our land for profits.

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  7. Posted by ItsViggySmallz on

    This started about the risk of losing the hunting grounds and the risk of losing the caribou migration route. At the end of the day, it is going to be about money… it always is. The locals signed the deal, this is why the mine is up there in the first place. There was an agreement that was signed, a mine just does not pop up. These protesters are holding these workers hostage and not allowing any food to get to the ones who are currently employed. The protesters that are at the airstrip now, should be preparing to be in jail as it is a federal offence to do this to an airstrip. Need to rethink their strategy. Keep the tote road closed but do not mess with the people who are working and food supplies.

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