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Baffinland warns of ill effects from cutting off food, medication and supplies at Mary River

Flights haven't been able to get in or out of the Mary River mine since Feb. 4 due to a blockade at the airstrip. Hark Nijjar Photography

Blockades preventing the delivery of food, medication and supplies by air could jeopardize the welfare of 700 Mary River mine employees and contractors, Baffinland Iron Mines stated in a Tuesday news release.

The protests that caused the mine's airstrip and tote road to be shut down are now in their sixth day.

"Baffinland is responsible for the safety of every person at Mary River, including all employees, contractors, and the protesters," the company stated. "Many of the people working at Mary River have been on site for 21 days now and they are not being allowed to leave, nor are food and supply flights being allowed to land. Working in the high Arctic, those on site bring enough additional medicine and supplies for potential weather delays, however continued suspension of air travel and blocking of medicine and supplies will have an impact in the near term.

"Baffinland respects the right to peaceful protest, however Baffinland cannot allow any activity to continue that causes a safety concern to any of the people on site. At this time, all attempts to negotiate the reopening of the Mary River airstrip made no progress and Baffinland is considering all options to reopen the airstrip."

Mining company officials met on Monday with representatives of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA), the mayor of Pond Inlet, the Government of Nunavut and the RCMP. All parties were urged to find ways to resolve the blockades.

The blockades began while the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB)'s public hearing process on the phase two expansion proposal was underway in Iqaluit and Pond Inlet. Baffinland noted that this process is still ongoing and NIRB has not issued any recommendations regarding phase two. The public hearing is expected to continue once NIRB sets the date for the community roundtable, currently expected to take place some time next month.