Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation and Qikiqtani Inuit Association both say that this year’s Annual Project Review Forum (APRF) was productive and fruitful.

The APRF occurred from May 9-11.

There were 36 people in attendance for the forum. That figure includes representatives from Baffinland and QIA, as well as delegates from each of five communities affected by Baffinland’s Mary River iron mine on north Baffin Island: Arctic Bay, Iglulik, Pond Inlet, Clyde River and Sanirajak.

Each community sent its community director, as well as an Elder and a youth.

“The forum is intended to be an open dialog between communities, QIA, and Baffinland,” the QIA stated. “We have received valuable information from the impacted communities and conversations have been positive and fruitful.”

The APRF is a byproduct of the Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement negotiated for the Mary River Project. The agreement was co-signed by QIA and Baffinland.

The forum gives both parties and representatives from affected communities an opportunity “to discuss project operations and agreement implementation for the previous year, and provide recommendations on how to improve the project,” according to QIA.

This year marked the first APRF since 2019, as the Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible in more recent years.

“Because it’s co-signed, because there’s obligations for both parties to implement the agreement, we spend typically half the time with Baffinland presenting information and data from the prior year, and then Qikiqtani Inuit Association spends time presenting as well,” said Udlu Hanson, Baffinland Iron Mines’ vice-president of community and strategic development.

“Then during the course of forum, and during question and answer sessions, the community representatives have opportunities to speak. They usually bring forward recommendations.”

There were “a lot of great discussions” about “a lot of different issues” at this year’s APRF, according to Hanson, including “discussion around employment and training, contracting, health and safety.”

Concerns about the mine’s impact on wildlife and the environment were also addressed.

“We have heard comments regarding dust, impacts to terrestrial and marine wildlife, job and contracting opportunities for Inuit, and improving conditions for workers at the site to make their rotations more enjoyable,” said QIA. “We also heard about the need for further supports in communities for rotational workers.”

Now that this year’s APRF has concluded, Baffinland will begin compiling a public report based on the proceedings. The report will be available on the company’s website this summer.

In the meantime, both Baffinland and QIA seemed optimistic about the future of the project.

“That’s the sentiment after the meetings – that they were were good discussions, and everyone is looking forward to hearing back on the recommendations from both parties,” Hanson said. “The recommendations were very forward-looking and optimistic in themselves that we’re moving in the right direction.”

“Conversations were productive and positive, and have yielded some great recommendations for QIA and Baffinland to work on,” QIA said.

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