Pond Inlet’s support for mine expansion should be struck from record: councillor
Council didn’t see submission on Mary River mine proposal before it appeared on Nunavut Impact Review Board registry, says Boazie Ootoova
A Pond Inlet councillor is asking that the hamlet’s letter of support for a proposed mine expansion be struck from a review board’s public record, claiming the mayor did not consult council before signing it.
The letter, signed by Mayor Joshua Arreak, was submitted to the Nunavut Impact Review Board on Jan. 10 as part of the hamlet’s closing statements on Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed Mary River iron mine expansion.
On May 10, Coun. Boazie Ootoova sent a letter to the review board and federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, stating councillors did not approve a resolution to support the expansion.
“In the absence of a resolution expressing the positions included in the mayor’s final submission letter, the mayor acted in violation,” Ootoova wrote in the letter.
Further, Ootoova said, the letter “contradicts hamlet resolutions” on the proposed expansion, and councillors “were not aware of this letter before it was filed with the NIRB.”
“This letter [of support] gives the false impression that the Pond Inlet hamlet is now supporting phase two,” he wrote. “This letter should be removed from the NIRB registry and should not be interpreted as an endorsement of Baffinland’s [proposal].”
In an interview with Nunatsiaq News, Arreak said supporting the mine expansion was not his decision; it had to be supported by the hamlet’s council.
“I was just representing the council as I should,” Arreak said. “Everybody’s being hyped up, trying to make trouble.”
To expand Mary River mine, Baffinland wants to construct a 110-kilometre railway between Milne Inlet and the mine, double its shipping output from six to 12 million tonnes per year through the Tallurutiup Imanga marine conservation area, and build another dock at its Milne Inlet port.
The proposal is at the end of a three-year public hearing process that allowed the review board to gather information from residents, hunters and trappers organizations and hamlets of five affected north Baffin communities, Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord.
The board has a deadline of Friday to make a recommendation about whether the project should go forward. After that, Vandal’s office will have 90 days to approve or deny the project.
Baffinland has maintained that if the expansion isn’t approved, it may have to put Mary River mine into care and maintenance and lay off employees.
Pond Inlet’s letter of support lists the many benefits the hamlet receives from Baffinland, such as more than $16 million paid in wages since 2015 to residents who work at the mine, and nearly $16 million in contracts to Inuit businesses in the hamlet.
The company has also committed to building an Inuit training centre and creating eight new community-based full-time positions if the expansion goes through.
In the support letter, Arreak references an Oct. 30, 2021, council resolution that outlines “several conditions that would need to be met as conditions of a phase two approval.”
Some of those conditions include Baffinland paying the affected communities $300 each for every ore-carrying car on its train trips, paying to pave the roads in Pond Inlet and giving the hamlet access to equipment and machinery Baffinland owns.
That resolution, obtained by Nunatsiaq News, takes the position of the local Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, which is that the project should not be approved because it will have significant environmental impacts.
But, it states, “if [sic] phase two were to be approved, the hamlet asks that the following be implemented as conditions of approval.”
Signatures on that resolution include Arreak’s, along with councillors Joshua Idlout, Moses Koonark, Sharon Ootook, Joanna Innualuk-Kunnuk, Michel Oolateeta and Boazie Ootoova.
The hamlets of Arctic Bay, Sanirajak and Grise Fiord have all given support for the expansion.
In an email to Nunatsiaq News, the review board’s acting executive director Mark Ings would not comment on Ootoova’s letter, but said the board stopped taking evidence when the hearing closed Jan. 28.
“No documents received by the board after that time would be considered in decision-making in relation to the [expansion proposal],” he wrote.