The Hamlet of Pond Inlet has communicated how Baffinland Iron Mines can secure the municipality’s support for the expansion of the Mary River iron mine, which lies 160 kilometres south of the community.

If production of iron ore at the Mary River mine is going to rise from the exiting six million tonnes per year to 12 million tonnes per year, it must be done in annual increments of an additional 1.5 million tonnes over four years, the Hamlet of Pond Inlet is insisting.
photo courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines

The mining company would have to incrementally raise its production of iron ore by 1.5 million tonnes per year to reach its near-term goal of 12 million tonnes annually, from the current six million tonnes, states a Dec. 29 letter signed by Pond Inlet Mayor Joshua Arreak. The limited pace would help limit damage to the environment and wildlife, according to the letter.

“A sudden increase in production from six to 10 or 12 million tonnes per year is incompatible with a commitment to adaptive management,” the letter states. “Making a large change that may affect an ecosystem, and then studying the results and attempting to make these changes ‘after the fact’ amounts to conventional, reactionary and often ‘crisis’ management.”

The hamlet also demands a firm commitment from Baffinland to increase its Inuit workforce by 2.6 per cent per year in each of those four years of incremental production increases. The letter indicates that Inuit employment fell to 12.8 per cent in 2019 from 15.4 per cent in 2016 and has never reached the 25 per cent target.

The letter also calls for ice-breaking to only to begin in Milne Inlet and Eclipse Sound two weeks after the ice is no longer landfast – intact in shallower areas along the coast. The Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization should be given the discretion to decide exactly when ice-breaking can proceed so that marine mammals, which are hunted for sustenance, are not harmed or driven away by ships, according to the letter.

Finally, the correspondence also expresses support “in principle” for the concept of the Inuit Stewardship Plan contained within the Inuit Certainty Agreement, which was reached between the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) and Baffinland last year.

“The hamlet recognizes the importance of a greatly enhanced role for Inuit in decision-making related to the environmental, socio-economic and cultural impacts of the current project, and any further project development,” the letter reads.

Nunavut News reached Arreak four times by phone between Jan. 8 and 11. Each time he said he was in a meeting or about to enter a meeting. He never returned a message left on the morning on Jan. 12.

Megan Lord-Hoyle, Baffinland’s vice-president of sustainable development, sent the following statement: “Baffinland is taking the necessary time to review the proposals put forward by the Hamlet of Pond Inlet and will ensure each item is reviewed in the context of the overall viability of the phase two proposal. We look forward to providing a written response to the mayor prior to the recommencement of the phase two public hearing scheduled for Jan. 25, 2021.”

Merlyn Recinos, mayor of Iglulik, was one of the signatories to a Aug. 25 communique from North Baffin communities that expressed opposition to the Inuit Certainty Agreement. That deal provides a broad range of benefits in return for the QIA’s endorsement of expansion at the Mary River iron mine.

Recinos said he had advanced knowledge that the Hamlet of Pond Inlet was going to release its terms and conditions to support Mary River phase two expansion, but he said the Hamlet of Iglulik is calling for representatives from all five affected North Baffin communities – Sanirajak, Arctic Bay and Clyde River being the others – to meet in Iqaluit in advance of the resumption of the Nunavut Impact Review Board hearings for phase two later this month.

“We have been united with the five communities for the (Mary River) project as we understood that that’s the only way for us to move forward, was to find unity,” said Recinos. “So we’re really looking forward to that meeting (in late January) for us to be able to have more clarity in regards to where they (the Hamlet of Pond Inlet) stand and their rationale behind their decision.”

Recinos also said there’s been a recent attempt to develop “the skeleton” of the Inuit Certainty Agreement, in partnership with the QIA, in regards to how that deal would benefit the affected North Baffin communities.

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