The territorial government should be more vocal and exert more influence over the operations of Baffinland’s Mary River iron mine, Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq said in the legislative assembly on Monday.
“My constituents are wondering why the territorial government seems to be able and willing to impose restrictions on caribou hunting in this region to protect the health of the species, but does not seem able or willing to impose restrictions on the mining companies to protect our land, water, and wildlife,” said Qamaniq, who alluded to a week of unrest as protesters from Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay occupied the airstrip and tote road at the mine site earlier this month.
He also acknowledged a “growing sense of frustration” among many of his constituents regarding the allocation of the economic benefits from the mine.
“Although I fully understand and appreciate that this legislative assembly does not have the authority to dictate to the Qikiqtani Inuit Association or other designated Inuit organizations in this matter, I am supportive of efforts to bring stakeholders to the table to work towards a greater consensus,” said Qamaniq.
He reiterated that there is support for responsible natural resource development and that important economic benefits are made possible from the mining project. Associated training and employment allows Inuit to “earn a decent living for their families,” according to the Tununiq MLA.
“However, there is also widespread and continuing concern about the potential environmental impacts that may take place as a result of any approved expansion of the
existing project,” he said. “As many of my constituents have pointed out, the mineral riches under our land are not going anywhere, but there is risk of damage to our land and water and wildlife that cannot be undone.”
Environment Minister Joe Savikataaq stated that the GN has provided input to the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s regulatory review for a proposed expansion of the Mary River mine, and that process is ongoing.
He added that it’s not the territorial government’s place to intervene in the distribution of economic benefits.
“We will not dictate to the QIA and to the communities on how they should negotiate or what benefits that they may get from the mines,” Savikataaq said. “Mr. Speaker, Baffinland is on Inuit-owned land and the QIA is responsible for the leasing and the royalties and the benefits they may get from Baffinland. Mr. Speaker, I encourage the communities to speak with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association about their concerns.”