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Baffinland 'must significantly change its approach,' Qamaniq says

With public hearings for Baffinland Iron Mines' proposed expansion of its Mary River mine taking place in Iqaluit, Tununiq MLA David Qaminiq told his colleagues in the legislative assembly that the mining company has more work to do to gain the trust of Inuit.

Baffinland's Mary River mine seen from the air. Public hearings on the company's proposed phase two expansion to shipping 12 million tonnes of iron ore took place this week and will continue at later date, the Nunavut Impact Review Board has decided. photo courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines

He suggested on Wednesday that the company should have been more forthcoming about its full plans from its early days.

"Rather than providing a complete picture of the full scope of the project and its ultimate impact on the region, the incremental or 'phased' approach to requesting change after change after change has only served to cause confusion and frustration," said Qaminiq. "As you likely know, there have been many concerns expressed by the community about such issues as the impact that rail and sea shipping are having on the environment, our
marine life, and the caribou."

Pond Inlet residents have heard that Baffinland has communicated different messages to its investors than it conveyed to people in Nunavut communities, which "undermines our confidence," he said.

"In order for the community to find common ground, we need the full picture so that we
can have greater confidence that decisions are being made based on a complete set of
facts," said Qamaniq. "I again want to make it clear that I do support responsible natural resources development. I also want to make it clear that the community fully recognizes the economic benefits that the project has brought to the region. However, it is essential that the company significantly change its approach."

The Tununiq MLA also served notice to Inuit organizations that they too must heed the words of people in the communities.

"People have felt that their concerns have been ignored and that these organizations have been too focused on the bottom line of tax and IIBA (Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement) revenues," he said, acknowledging that the Qikiqtani Inuit Association recently sent a letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board that withheld support for Baffinland's phase two expansion and reflected feedback from Pond Inlet.

"The positions of the community and our regional Inuit association are now clear," Qaminiq said. "I again want to clearly state that we want Mary River to succeed, but its success depends on obtaining the support and trust of the community, which is in very
serious jeopardy."

Qamaniq asked Premier Joe Savikataaq whether the GN would be willing to withhold its support for Baffinland's phase two expansion until the Municipality of Pond Inlet, the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association have formally withdrawn their objections to the proposal.

Savikataaq said he trusts the Nunavut Impact Review Board's recommendation to the federal government will be sound. That recommendation won't be made until public hearings have concluded, and the review board announced on Nov. 5 that it will extend the hearings.

"I absolutely believe in the process," the Premier said.