Baffinland to pay for Inuit-led program for monitoring impacts of proposed mine expansion, says QIA

·2 min read

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association says some concerns over Baffinland’s mine expansion plans could be addressed by a deal it struck with the company that will give Inuit more say over environmental monitoring.

That’s according to Richard Paton, the association’s director of Inuit qaujimajatuqangit and engagement. He gave a presentation to the Nunavut Impact Review Board during a hearing on the expansion Thursday.

“We see this as ensuring greater Inuit control over project management,” he said.

The impact review board has been hosting meetings the past two weeks on whether to allow Baffinland to expand its Mary River iron mine on northern Baffin Island.

The company wants a 110-kilometre railway from the mine to Milne Inlet, an additional dock at Milne Inlet, more than double the amount of vessel carrier trips, and to expand current output from six million tonnes of iron per year to 12 million.

In his hour of presenting, Paton named a flurry of environmental issues associated with the proposed project that he says have yet to be resolved. Of them were ballast water discharge, potential invasive species, caribou crossings, the railway’s route, ice breaking and the health of Arctic char. Paton also said the association wants to see improvements to Inuit employment and training programs within the company.

Paton said Baffinland’s baseline research into animal and marine life populations is not good enough, that it needs to incorporate more Inuit traditional knowledge and that Baffinland’s final environmental report “underestimated” impacts on Inuit resources.

He said the company’s findings have “not corresponded with Inuit observations to date.”

“Inuit are the stewards of these lands and must be meaningfully and actively involved as full partners in environmental management for the life of the project,” Paton said. “The project must fit into Inuit lands and traditions.”

That’s where the Inuit Certainty Agreement comes in. The agreement, struck by the company and QIA in July, calls for an Inuit stewardship plan that would see Inuit hired with funds provided by Baffinland to monitor the mine’s environmental impacts.

As a result of this agreement, Baffinland has agreed to pay for such a program for 2021 to 2022, and for the life of the mine, should the expansion be approved, according to an email from the Inuit association.

Paton said the program will include committees composed of Inuit to monitor changes in the environment, as well as Inuit and community-based monitors to ensure the inclusion of Inuit traditional knowledge.

Those monitors will collect information, define and recognize problems, and determine responses to those problems. Some of these responses might include more monitoring, changes to Baffinland’s operations, or compensation, Paton said.

David Venn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News