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EDITORIAL: QIA forges iron-clad deal

How many times have you heard that the mining companies come and exploit the land, make a pile of money and then leave a mess behind?
Plenty of times, no doubt.

Historically, there has been some truth to this. But that's changing and a big part of what's driving that change are deals like the one that the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) signed with Baffinland Iron Mines in June.

The Inuit Certainty Agreement is packed with brilliant negotiations strategy and is wide-ranging in nature. If the Mary River phase two expansion proposal moves ahead, Qikiqtani Inuit are in a strong position to benefit.

While financial gain plays a prominent role, it's not entirely about dollars and cents.

Inuit oversight of the mine's operations and impacts would improve. A committee would be formed to monitor many issues such as language preservation, access to country food, support for youth and elders, quality of life, housing, income and cost of living, mental health, education and training.

The QIA was forward-thinking in terms of child care as well. This is a major barrier for families trying to overcome the high cost of living in the North.
Having two parents working – particularly when one is at a remote mine site for two weeks at a time – is next to impossible when there's no one to look after the children. So the QIA convinced Baffinland to put up $15 million for childcare facilities in Pond Inlet, Iglulik, Hall Beach, Clyde River and Arctic Bay. If mine expansion reaches Steensby Inlet, then Kinngait and Kimmirut will also realize that same $3 million benefit. Not only that, but Baffinland will pay $19 per day per child in daily subsidies for child care.

"Investing in early childhood is paying dividends in the long run," said QIA President P.J. Akeeagok.
There will also be a requirement for Baffinland to post a $10-million project bond that the QIA can draw from when Baffinland fails to meet commitments or goals – and that $10 million must be replenished.

Likewise, there are substantial monetary penalties in place if Baffinland doesn't meet Inuit hiring objectives.
The QIA's royalty would rise to three per cent 72 months into phase two of Mary River expansion. With hundreds of millions of dollars worth of iron ore being extracted from the Qikiqtani region each year, that royalty will add up. Then there are numerous one-time payments to the QIA in the millions of dollars for various milestones.

All of this builds on the renegotiated Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement between the QIA and Baffinland, announced in October 2018.

However, none of it ensures Baffinland proceeds with phase two. There's still the Nunavut Impact Review Board process to be completed, including public hearings. Akeeagok acknowledged that marine concerns, due to increased shipping, remain to be resolved.

There are a number of uncertainties with the global financial picture due to Covid-19, among other factors. Although iron ore has been relatively buoyant over the past couple of years, resource prices may falter.

No matter what though, if Mary River phase two becomes a reality, the QIA has masterfully set out terms that will enhance life for its membership in many ways for many years to come.