Inuit communities have spoken out against the proposal to expand an iron ore mine on Baffin Island in northern Canada.
An Inuit organization in the Nunavut area of northern Canada voted against the proposed expansion of a controversial iron ore mine after local Inuit communities vigorously protested the proposal.
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) said in a statement Friday that its board of directors had decided not to support the expansion of the Mary River Mine on Baffin Island in the Arctic Archipelago. The QIA is tasked with protecting the rights and interests of the Inuit in the region.
The company responsible for the mine, Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation, had proposed doubling production from six to 12 million tons per year and building a 110 km long railway line that connects the site with a port, as well as a second pier, from which she is supposed to send the material.
“Inuit was not involved in drafting the proposal and key information on the impact of the project remains unclear. Therefore, the QIA board will not recommend approval, ”said QIA President PJ Akeeagok in the group’s statement.
Inuit hunters had put up a blockade at the Mary River Mine last month to protest the proposed expansion, known as the second phase of development.
Inuit hunt narwhal, a whale sometimes referred to as the “unicorn of the sea” because of its long tusk, in open water in the Nunavut area of Canada in summer. [Courtesy Build Films/Oceans North]The hunters, along with other residents and leaders of the Inuit communities on Baffin Island, had raised concerns that the project would damage the wildlife they depend on for survival, including narwhal, seals, caribou and fish.
They also said their voices had not been heard while traditional Inuit knowledge – known as Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit – was not taken into account in the company’s assessment of possible effects.
“Inuit are asked to take so much risk with very little benefit or benefit in the form of money that our culture, wildlife or harvesting practices cannot replace,” said Eric Ootoovak, chairman of Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization (MHTO) im Inuit hamlet Pond Inlet, Al Jazeera said last month.
In its statement, the QIA said its board had investigated concerns about the effects of dust from the mine, its potential impact on wildlife, the limited use of Inuit knowledge and the lack of a joint development plan for “adaptive management”.
“The QIA Board of Directors remains open to resource development in the Qikiqtani region and welcomes proposals from Baffinland that prioritize Inuit involvement from the outset and are consistent with an Inuit vision of the future,” it said.
As part of the second phase, Baffinland plans to build a railroad that will connect the Mary River Mine with a port on Milne Inlet [Al Jazeera/Mapbox]In a statement on Saturday, Baffinland said it had taken note of the QIA’s decision but was “pleased” that the organization welcomed proposals to address concerns.
“We have worked with QIA and others for many years to develop an approach to Mary River development that meets stringent environmental standards and provides Inuit with comprehensive control and monitoring of mine operations,” said Brian Penney, CEO of Baffinland.
“We will continue our public relations work and try to meet the QIA and others as soon as possible to discuss their concerns and find an amicable way forward.”
The expansion is still ahead of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB), which held environmental review hearings in January and February.
After further scheduled meetings in April, the Canadian federal government will issue a recommendation for approval.