Qikiqtani Inuit Association won’t support Mary River mine expansion

‘Inuit did not participate in the development of the proposal,’ says QIA President P.J. Akeeagok

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s board of directors has passed a resolution saying it will not support a proposal to expand the Mary River iron mine. (Baffinland photo)

By Jim Bell

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association says it will not support Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposal to expand its Mary River iron mine.

The association’s board of directors made the announcement last Friday evening, after passing a resolution during a closed-door session earlier that day.

The board discussed the expansion’s impacts on wildlife, including caribou, seal and narwhal, as well as dust produced by mining activities, according to a news release from the association.

The proposed expansion, dubbed Phase 2, would increase the mine’s production from six million to 12 million tonnes of ore per year, include the construction of a 110-kilometre railway from Mary River to Milne Inlet, and use up to 176 transits by ore-carrying vessels to take its product to market.

Board members also talked about what they describe as Baffinland’s limited incorporation of Inuit traditional knowledge into the company’s expansion plan, and the absence of a jointly developed adaptive management plan to mitigate the project’s impacts.

“Inuit did not participate in the development of the proposal, and key information about project impacts remain unclear,” QIA president P.J. Akeeagok said in a statement.

At the same time, the board “remains open to resource development” and would welcome proposals from Baffinland “that prioritize Inuit involvement from the beginning,” the news release states.

In a news release the next day, Baffinland CEO Brian Penney said the company remains committed to making the proposed expansion work.

“We will 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,” he said.

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association, which has described itself as Baffinland’s partner, owns most of the land the Mary River project sits on and receives millions of dollars a year in commercial lease payments and royalties through an Inuit impact and benefits agreement.

By the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year, the association’s legacy fund held $61.7 million, most of which consists of payments from Baffinland.

That year, QIA distributed $1.4 million from the legacy fund’s earnings throughout the Qikiqtani region, including $500,000 for a daycare subsidy and $594,410 for cultural activities. The legacy fund was established in 2016 to invest money the association receives through activities, including the benefit agreement with Baffinland, other mining activity, and sand and gravel projects on Inuit-owned lands.

In addition to the impact and benefits agreement, the organization negotiated another agreement last July, aimed at making the expansion proposal more acceptable to the people of north Baffin.

Called the Inuit Certainty Agreement, the deal delivers direct benefits to area communities and provides for Inuit oversight of the expansion project.

“It puts Inuit in the driver’s seat,” Akeeagok said of the certainty agreement this past July.

Despite this agreement, Inuit support for the expansion remains less than certain.

On Feb. 9, a group of protesters from Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet blockaded the Mary River tote road and airstrip. In response to the protest, Akeeagok said the expansion proposal “has not been adequately developed.”

The blockade ended one week later, as Baffinland sought an injunction in Nunavut court, and QIA leadership committed to meeting with the protesters.

At a public hearing before the Nunavut Impact Review Board last month, Inuit representatives from north Baffin — especially from Pond Inlet — asked skeptical questions about the project and some expressed outright opposition.

Throughout the review board’s assessment process, QIA has refrained from endorsing the expansion project, but had never issued an outright condemnation either.

The public hearing is set to resume April 12 and run until April 21.

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(40) Comments:

  1. Posted by QIA is an embarassment on

    Bwhahaha, once again QIA tries to extricate itself from a disaster of its own making. Baffinland is a mining company, trying to develop a resource the best way it knows how to make money while protecting the environment and fulfilling its obligations. They worked with QIA to develop the Inuit Certainty Agreement to try to address the needs of Inuit, trusting that QIA actually represents Inuit in the affected communities. They also have been engaged in the NIRB’s public review process for several years now to address the environmental issues associated with the proposal. What more could they possibly do?

    The potential for additional environmental impacts from the proposal are real, and they may or may not be able to be addressed appropriately… that’s what the NIRB process is designed to determine, with the opportunity for all to weigh in with their views. But that process is not designed to address the human element, impacts to communities – that’s for the political leadership to address, which QIA and NTI are failing miserably at doing since the original project was approved. A mining company can’t engage directly with Inuit to design a mining development proposal without going through QIA and NTI to do so. The project is on land administered by QIA, and QIA has spent many millions claiming to be working on behalf of Inuit, so what gives? How do they let things get to this point several years in, saying they can’t support the proposal because the company didn’t work with Inuit to design it?! Complete BS.

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    • Posted by Me on

      Until Nuluujaat Land Guardians showed up, QIA and NTI were listening to bffnlnd wishes more than Inuit. Bffnlnd is a visitor to our Nunavut and should be made to listen to Inuit. Inuit are primary, bffnlnd is secondary as should be.

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      • Posted by Bob’s Your Uncle on

        Follow the money…..QIA, NTI, QC, etc….who owns the big houses (&cabins), trucks, boats, snowmobiles, 4 wheelers and all expenses paid trips all over the country & world, with fat honorariums while pretending to be working on behalf of beneficiaries….

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        • Posted by Truestory on

          I couldn’t agree more. What double faced representatives.

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  2. Posted by Me on

    Forever thankful to Protesters, giving meaning to NLCA to QIA. The way it should be for Inuit to be represented under the NLCA.

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  3. Posted by Me on

    Forever thankful to Nuluujaat Land Guardians in putting Inuit first under the NLCA

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    • Posted by Ian on

      The mines of this company in Canada are all up for sale,and nobody is going to buy a money losing venture,the only people that will suffer is the southern workforce goodbye

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      • Posted by GOODBYE? on

        Goodbye Southern workers. Goodbye local contracts. Goodbye Inuit mine jobs. Goodbye 22% of Nunavut’s GDP. Goodbye dust control. Goodbye free snowmobile repairs, fuel and food. Goodbye country kitchens. Goodbye daycare centres. Goodbye search and rescue. Goodbye 21st century.

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  4. Posted by Foreever Thankful on

    Ideally, this should be:
    – Baffinland will withdraw its application for production increases
    – Baffinland will abandon the mine after the predetermined restrictions about restoring the mini site
    – No more financial obligations towards the QIA
    – Nunavummiut who are away from home to work at the mine can stay home and remain unemployed
    – Land and marine animals are growing and are ready for over harvestings

    I’m so thankful that Inuit organizations working so diligent in serving its residents.
    Just don’t come back crying in a few years when the federal and mining money has run out

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    • Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

      Hunters are not over harvesting their wildlife in North Baffin. The caribou went down in numbers due to a natural cycle and probably climate change made it worse. There is a strict TAH/quota for caribou all over Baffin Island.. Mining and mineral exploration in their habitat does affect their recovery however. Narwhal, polar bears and bowhead whales, walrus are on a strict TAH system or quota, so there is no over harvest there either by hunters. This is a very disparaging and ignorant comment , obviously by some southerner who works at the mine and does not know what he/she is talking about.

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      • Posted by AnimalsMoveAround on

        Over harvesting is an issue in addition to natural cycles, climate change, predation,…10 communities harvesting from the same island-bound, non-migratory herd? C’mon. To say one mine on the whole island has an impact on the recovery of the Baffin herd is unproven, undetermined, and unmeasured at this point. There’s a TAH on Baffin herd because they tried a moratorium and people didn’t want that, they wanted to keep hunting, even though the herd is at its lowest population in recorded history.

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      • Posted by TAGS, QUOTAS? on

        The pictures posted on Facebook of a polar bear cub being shot from a snowmobile, next to the mine road, by a young local hunter must be fake then? The pictures of him posing with the dead cub must be fake as well, unless tags are being issued for Nanook cubs now?

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  5. Posted by Eskimo Joe on

    DENIED!
    Stop progression and lets keep the mine producing exactly the way it is; I don’t care if progress would stop naturally occurring iron to be blown across the tundra.
    We sure showed them.

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  6. Posted by The Future is so Bright on

    The combination of pervasive ignorance and anti-development bode well for our future, Nunavut. Maybe our MP can do the guilty grandstand about how this is all Ottawa’s fault and up our welfare payments.

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  7. Posted by baffled on

    Having lived in the north over 30 years I’m constantly baffled by people who fight employers figuring only southern workers will go home and all will cheer. Most companies employ northerners, southerners, white and Inuit. So why always fight and complain about a company paying good wages, employing those that want to work. Why, do you not ever want to get off the welfare system, including white living on the welfare system. Take advantage of the big companies, get your share “go to work”. You might enjoy having some cash in your pocket.

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    • Posted by Up here lady on

      Unforturnatly your ideals dont work like you wish. We dont get work, we get promises of yhe same thing over and over, like jobs and training, and get nothing. Now our wildlife is sick and declining and i think it is from the iron dust. High iron levels and mammals cant reproduce. I dont want to see how far it goes. I dont know anyone here who works there, but know lots who applied. This mine is not benefiting us. And QIA has been the tellers of their joke the whole time.

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      • Posted by Really? on

        I am struggling to understand this. The QIA seemingly supported this expansion and now have reneged. WHF. Because a group calling themselves some sort of ‘Guardians’ had decided to unlawfully block the Mary River airport runway, and our MP supports this unlawful group, we in Nunavut have to cow-tow to this? Again, WTF. I do not support these unlawful actions, nor do I support this about-face decision by the QIA. I cannot understand how people cannot, and do not, support a company providing a way forward and out of poverty.

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        • Posted by Guardians? on

          QIA is in damage control mode due to an unelected, non-profit that is threatening their control over North Baffin Hamlets. The ‘Land Guardians’ are really just an extension of QUK that is seeking funding and royalties from the mine. The QUK Guardians were seen as the second coming of Greenpeace by Southern newspapers when they blockaded the mine airstrip, but no Southern journalists bothered listening to their demands. With the surge in support for the QUK Guardians, locally and nationally, QIA is now trying to muster the same support as QUK, their unestablished rival, by backtracking on their commitments and misrepresenting the phase two proposal that they helped develop.

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        • Posted by Observation Post on

          As I see it, there are a combination of factors including a profound jealousy radiating from those who aren’t employed at the mine and directly benefitting, along with a visceral disdain for modernity as a product of the outside world (the ‘south’), which is viewed by many as the source of most of Nunavut’s hardship. The guiding principle here is thus anything that inflicts pain on others,

          Let’s see if the issues can eventually be worked out or if QIA has now dug in and will, as you say, kow-tow to the populist uprising of our angry malcontents.

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  8. Posted by Arviat guess on

    That is what you guys get for trying to say Inuit were trespassing in are owned land.:)

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  9. Posted by Baffinland has really made a mess on

    The mining company keeps asking for more ways to make more of a mess and understandably the residents who have to try an survive in their homes have had enough. The company keeps pretending all is well and they are never at fault, but the dust don’t lie. The lack of tuktu, whales, seals and fish just keeps telling the local residents that the promise of “no significant impact” by Baffinland is just make belief stories which aren’t true.

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    • Posted by Bad Guys Abound on

      This may or may not be true, but in this particular instance, the QIA are the bad guys.

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    • Posted by Blame game on

      Nope. I’m sure the mine has its environmental issues (ship noise, ore dust, etc.) but blaming the decline in tuktu that’s been going on since 1990 on the mine isn’t one of them. Skinny seals and narwhales aren’t caused by ship traffic, they’re caused by constantly being hunted by Orca and then not having anything to eat due to illegal overfishing. Orca are claiming the arctic as their hunting ground due to receding ice that used to keep narwhale and seals safe from these apex predators. If the mine goes under, these problems will still exist. Monstrous problems like climate change and illegal foreign fisheries will continue to change life for the residents of Baffin island. Trying to shut down the mine will only make things worse.

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  10. Posted by Sam on

    We are and always will be wards of the Canadian gov.begging for our existence, and housing,and our leaders do not know how to lead us out of poverty, Nd our younger people who get out will have a good life, and the ones that choose to stay will live a subsistent live, and that’s the way it was and that’s the way it will be in the future .

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  11. Posted by Missing The Point on

    Interesting discussion but in my opinion people are missing the point and complaining about QIA and its process.
    So in review of the whole project. Baffinland wants to develop the mine but obviously didn’t have their plan together from day one. Apparent to the changes in the applications to change the direction of the project.
    QIA put itself in a position to be bought by Baffinland. To start a trip to the Olympics where high level QIA and QC officials were given the opportunity to be on the world stage with a company that were in a position to buy their minds, great party’s and special favors have helped create where we are today. Did we consider all of the factors that are coming up to date. No we seen dollar signs and remain ignorant of the needs of the communities directly impacted by the project.
    So what’s the difference now? Now there is a threat to QIA and the treat is the newly formed association ” Qikiqtaaluk Uangnangani Katujjiqatigiit”. So the board of directors of QIA realized that this is a treat to the way we are doing business. This threatens the funds to QIA and the continued opportunities missed by QC its development arm. The QUK will prove that they are capable of running the show as a result of QIA’s ignorance for the people in the areas effected. Now they will listen because it is only when the pocket book is effected that we truly listen.
    Now we understand that for many the Road to the Olympics was not make of Gold.
    QUK will keep this project by the people and for the people.

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Gimme a break! No one in Nunavut and especially NOT the RIA has the technical expertise to operate this kind of project. If Baffinland doesn’t do it it will lay idle because after this fiasco there isn’t a company on earth that will touch it.

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    • Posted by Jennifer on

      Well Said!! Thank you 🙂
      .
      To ‘missing the point’commenter

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    • Posted by ROYALTY on

      Soooooo, on what planet are we on that QUK can just replace QIA? Or does QUK want to replace Baffinland as well? Definitely not gonna work or make any positive change.
      I’ve heard numerous complaints of low voter turnout with QIA elections but at least QIA has them. There is a possibility for change if people show up and vote then accountability to the masses starts to become a major factor.
      QUK doesn’t have elections and has been seeking royalties from Baffinland any way they can (blockades included). QUK’s name also seems inappropriate as only one family from one community seems to represent the non-profit. It should be called Pond Inlet Inuarak Qikiqtaaluk Uangnangani Katujjiqatigiit or PIIQUK. Do you want elected officials from every community to represent you or one family from one community? Democracy or Monarchy?

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      • Posted by Ignorant on

        I guess you missed the memo of when QUK elections plan to be held. Shiesh, talking to fast from your mouth

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    • Posted by ROYALTY on

      P.S. Not a big fan of Mittimatalik Inuarak Qikiqtaaluk Uangnangani Katujjiqatigiit, the abbreviation ‘MIQUK’ sounds wrong in English.

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  12. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Fine and dandy. Does that mean that the QIA will be handing back the millions of dollars that they have already pocketed from Baffinland?

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    • Posted by Sources help on

      I would really like it if someone could please post a link that supports this claim. And no, the ability to buy a small amount of stock does not mean the mine is for sale.

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  13. Posted by jimmy on

    “By the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year, the association’s legacy fund held $61.7 million, most of which consists of payments from Baffinland.”

    how much have the inuits communities seen? what is QIA doing with this money?

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