The Nunavut Impact Review Board’s (NIRB) Baffinland Phase Two expansion hearings started in Iqaluit on Monday, April 12.
Organizations from Pond Inlet had a number of questions to ask during the second day of the hearing, April 13, some of which had been left unanswered by the end of the previous hearings back in January.
Eric Ootoovak, chairperson for the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Association (HTO) asked the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) about current mitigation measures and proposed ones since January.
“DFO had provided recommendations to Baffinland to implement additional monitoring and mitigations,” said Gabriel Bernard-Lacaille, senior biologist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“There’s transit restrictions in the fall shoulder season, we also recommended remote monitoring of ship strike in order to better detect potential strikes of vessels to marine mammals and remote seasonal aerial surveys. These reports will help us better monitor these mitigation measures by providing specific information,” Bernard-Lacaille added.
The Hamlet of Pond Inlet asked questions on seal and food security, speaking to references provided by Baffinland in data presented.
“The available data that’s been presented in your references,” said Frank Tester, technical adviser for the Hamlet of Pond Inlet, “deals with harvest quantities data collected from 1996 to 2001, there’s nothing more recent than that.
“Food security is not merely a function of the number of some species that are harvested, but changes in the population of the community of Pond Inlet.”
Baffinland’s response to Tester’s question on data collection was that they believe they can maintain the current levels of availability.
“We do believe that we have objectively made a comprehensive study based on the information that was available to us, we certainly looked on it from a broader view that was suggested by the intervenor,” said Lou Kamermans, the senior director of sustainable development at Baffinland.
“We understand that there’s multiple factors affecting food security,” said Kamermans. “Phase Two, when it comes to country food and traditional harvesting, we propose that it’s well supported that we can maintain the availability and quality of wildlife stocks in regards to harvesting.”
New commitments to Pond Inlet
Baffinland’s vice-president of community and strategic development, Udloriak (Udlu) Hanson on April 12 said the company has developed a number of additional commitments speaking to a number of communities on the Phase 2 proposal, these included Pond Inlet.
“We have developed some additional commitments to try and address those concerns,” said Hanson. “They include ones that were raised by Pond Inlet where they asked for a gradual increase to shipping.”
Over a four year period she says, they’ll increase their shipping by 1.5 tonnes per year, “and have a gradual increase happen in a manner where we’re monitoring every year, monitoring for any significant impacts.”
Hanson said there will be more Inuit involvement in analyzing the results and in developing shipping thresholds and mitigation measures against potential environmental damage.
Baffinland also has made additional commitments in reducing the amount of ore carriers from 176 to 168.
They will continue to run the same shipping season from July 15 to Oct. 31 with a contingency for Nov. 15 “based on ice conditions and consultation with the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization,” Hanson said, with additional commitments toward banning the use of heavy fuel oil with contracted ore carriers.
Time constraints a concern
The Mittimatalik HTO feel there is not enough allotted time dedicated to Pond Inlet organizations to ask questions, with the Hamlet and HTO each having 30 minutes at Tuesday’s hearings. While a lot has been covered already, the representatives still have questions.
“We were far from finished asking questions, we still have a whole bunch of questions on the marine environmental part and some terrestrial questions,” said Ootoovak. “Pond Inlet being the most impacted community requires a lot more time than 30 minutes. That is not nearly enough time for Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization to ask some questions to other intervenors and the proponent.”
Ootoovak isn’t too confident in the continued talk when existing concerns continue on how the mine is currently operated.
“The mitigation measures Baffinland keeps talking about are far from real mitigations according to Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, there’s a lot of homework they still have to do before it can be accepted.
“There’s so much impacts that are adversely affecting Inuit, the hunting namely. All the animals are impacted, there seems to be less and less animals and fish every year,” said Ootoovak.