Two more hamlets support Baffinland expansion plans

Sanirajak and Grise Fiord join Arctic Bay in voicing support

Nunavut Impact Review Board’s hearing on Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed mine expansion is taking place in Iqaluit’s Aqsarniit hotel until Saturday. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Two more hamlets have announced their support for the proposed expansion of the Mary River iron mine, following suit with Arctic Bay, which announced its support last week.

Sanirajak councillors voted four to two in favour of supporting the expansion on Oct. 28, wrote Louis Primeau, Sanirajak chief administrative officer in an email to Brian Penney, CEO of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.

Grise Fiord voted unanimously in favour of supporting the expansion on the condition that environmental monitoring programs and “any agreed outcomes” from the hearing be fully enforced, according to a document filed in the Nunavut Impact Review Board registry.

Baffinland wants to build a 110-kilometre railway from the mine to Milne Inlet, double its iron ore shipments through the Tallurutiup Imanga marine conservation area and add another dock at its port.

But North Baffin residents continue to express concerns about the environmental impacts of the mine – especially the impact of shipping on marine mammals that are traditionally harvested by Inuit.

Food security was a top-of-mind concern raised by community representatives at the board’s hearing in Iqaluit on the mine expansion on Tuesday.

Kaujak Komangapik, a board member of the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, said this summer there were hardly any whales in Eclipse Sound, one of the bodies of water near Pond Inlet that Baffinland ships through.

“It was really hard this summer in terms of food. We hardly had any food to sustain us throughout the year,” Komangapik said.

Komangapik said wildlife has already been impacted by mining and will be impacted further if the expansion proceeds.

“My heart was breaking when I really thought about how damaging this is to our land, the environment, the Earth that feeds us that’s being broken,” Komangapik said.

The number of narwhal in Eclipse Sound decreased to 5,018 in 2020 from 9,931 in 2019, according to marine monitoring programs completed by Golder Associates, a firm hired by Baffinland.

There may be other factors at play behind the decline in narwhal, beyond Baffinland’s operations, according to those findings, such as the presence of killer whales and other construction in the area.

Research by Oceans North and Josh Jones, a marine acoustics researcher with the University of California, San Diego, shows that narwhal in Eclipse Sound have been avoiding areas near Baffinland’s largest ships, which emit around 120 decibels when they are about one kilometre away. Narwhal feeding can be affected by ships five kilometres away.

Baffinland has noise mitigation measures in place, such as speed restrictions and limits on the length of time ships are close to the floe edge, said Melanie Austin, a senior scientist with JASCO Applied Sciences, which is a firm hired by Baffinland.

The company also has supports in place to help address food security, said Udloriak Hanson, the company’s vice-president of community and strategic development.

For example, Baffinland proposes that it will have no more than 168 ore carrier transits per year, and every time a carrier passes through the community, a working group in the hamlet gets $10,000.

Pond Inlet Elder Jayko Alooloo said the community hasn’t received the benefits Baffinland and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association has said it’s giving them.

He said the food insecurity has been emotional and detrimental to hunters’ livelihood.

“Our hunting areas are spoiled. Our water, drinking water as hunters, has been destroyed and there’s no more caribou in our area, there’s no more narwhals and whales. We now have only a few animals that we can consume now, or hunt,” he said.

The company is currently looking to hire a coordinator to help administer money to community members, Hanson said. There is $800,000 budgeted right now to help support community members.

“This [is] a very emotional topic because we’re talking about things very important, like food, harvesting and potential impacts that are already being felt now,” Hanson said. “It’s difficult to hear some of the comments.”

Employment is one way to help food security, said the Government of Nunavut’s acting assistant deputy minister of economic development, Gabriel Karlik.

In the next decade, 1,830 Nunavummiut in Igloolik, Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Arctic Bay and Sanirajak will have reached working age and the company’s Inuit employment is trending upwards, from 144 at the start of 2017 to 441 at the end of 2019, according to a presentation by Baffinland.

Karlik said Baffinland can provide around 1,000 jobs to the growing Nunavut workforce.

“Some of the people who have worked at the mine sites now have disposable incomes that will help people to have a chance to go out and purchase the necessary hunting equipment,” he said.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board is set to conclude the hearing’s in-person meetings on Saturday.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by this is so depressing on

    “Some of the people who have worked at the mine sites now have disposable incomes that will help people to have a chance to go out and purchase the necessary hunting equipment,” he said.

    But so what, if there’s nothing much left to hunt

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  2. Posted by Why this is this happening on

    In northern Quebec this not happening like Nunavut it’s your benefits agreement is more linked with your government and your qia or kia or all to many off them when you all would get the money for you it’s NTI for us in Nunavik it’s MAKIVIK

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  3. Posted by steensby on

    Phase 2 Expansion should be contingent on immediate construction, development of railway, infrastructure and port south to Steensby including a sunset clause for phase 2. If there is no concrete indication of Baffinland’s intent in developing steensby like say 5 years. Shut Milne port for 5 years until steensby is a serious option for Baffinland.

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    • Posted by Northern Baffin on

      when there was the bulk sample options, back more than 10 years ago, Igloolik and Hall Beach had lawyers with them at hearings to stop the use of Steensby Inlet.
      do you think those 2 communities have changed their minds? unlikely, BIM already knows that they have stiff opposition to the development of the South Baffin Route.
      I’ve been a part of this whole process since 2003/2004. I’ve watched ever step, i’ve sat at hearings, community meetings, private meetings, and everything in between.
      has everyone forgotten? we havent.

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      • Posted by North Baffiner on

        NORTH BAFFIN? NOT! Mainland Canada does not qualify as North Baffin. ᐃᓱᒪᑭᑦᑐᑦ ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑦ!

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  4. Posted by To support or not to support, that is the question. on

    As the GN stated, employment is one way to help with food security. All we have to do is look to the Kivalliq. Mining have increased the standard of living in communities like Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet. Newly found employment and economic prosperity is literally created a new middle class. There are new opportunities there now that didn’t exist before. Another example is help from mining companies with community assistance like the cleanup of contaminants and hazardous materials at its local landfill site and financial assistance with a newly built arena. Just some of the available benefits to communities.
    Mining is not new to Inuit. Copper mining among the Inuit living near the Coppermine River and today’s community of Kugluktuk. Inuit that moved off the land to work at the Rankin Inlet nickel mine, which operated from 1957 to 1962. The Rankin inlet hamlet logo is even a mine shaft.
    Jobs in Nunavut are desperately needed to build wealth and get people off social assistance. Baffinland has already committed to industry leading mitigation measures and the direct involvement of Inuit in Project planning, oversight, and management to address concerns raised with the Phase 2 expansion project . It will be very interesting to see how this plays out going forward. The future of Nunavut will depend on it’s outcome.

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    • Posted by What will happen when the ore is gone? on

      The jobs are dependant of the mine and the company wants to extract the ore as fast as they possibly can with just nice words about the affect it is already having on the lands and waters. The residents of Pond Inlet are trying to explain what they are seeing is not promising as they will have to live with the outcome at the end of the day when the mine shuts down. No need to rush this as the ore ain’t going to fly or run away.

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      • Posted by Consistency on

        Yup every time the BIM says oh we need to double how much we take out that is half the time the mine will be around to pay for employment to Nunavummiut. this mine was supposed to have enough to last 100-200 years, if phase 2 is approved what will that number be knocked down to? Will they say in 5 years time they need to double again or they will close and the mine will be done in like 20 years or less?

        the the same destruction of the land will happen if it take 200 years or 20.

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      • Posted by Michael McIntosh on

        The mine has over a 100 year predicted life spaned and exploration keeps finding more minerals, with climate going the way it is I’d put any money the narwhals and alot of the other wild wild life will be gone in 50 with or without the mine

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        • Posted by Consistency on

          that 100 years, how much is predicted to be in the ground and how much do they remove each year for it to last 100 years? I tried to find a number of what is in the ground and from articles back in like 2010 or so they had a estimate of around 350 million tons. which in the initial phase they were approved to remove 2.5 million tons a year. so ya that is in the 100 years. but now they are at 6 million tons now, if phase 2 is approved they will increase to 12 through that is shipped through Mile Inlet, and they also already have approval for south through Steensby Inlet for 18 Million tons. so now we are at 30 million tons a year. suddenly it is no longer a 100+ year mine it is a 10 year mine. and if they do find more sites, once they get this phase 2 approval as if they wont want come up with a phase 3 and increase how much they can pull out.

  5. Posted by Inuk on

    People will have necessary hunting equipment with nothing to hunt

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    • Posted by Hammer on

      It was that construction hammering sound at your new harbor that was scaring the mammals away but expect them back now since it has been completed.

  6. Posted by Name withheld on

    Expansion will only damage the land more. As one of the comments stated when then the ore is gone than what ? They will be out faster than the dollar will be. They will not look back as to them it’s only another dollar!!

    AEM in Rankin Inlet and in Baker Lake said they can empty a lake, check for goal, and can put everything back as it was. Nope!! Cannot

    QIA, Government of Nunavut and NTI don’t care as long as they are given the royalties. And guess where those royalties are going into ? Hiring consultants, researchers to sit pretty behind a desk and make thousands of dollars to come up with the same numbers as elders in these communities.

    All these mining companies don’t care about your land, they don’t care what they have done to get the gold they have. Your caribou is being controlled by quota, now you will see your sustainable living from the ocean will be gone too.

    Soon you will be living off the shelves at the store just as Green Peace wants !!!

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