Inuit group votes against support for Nunavut mine expansion | Environment News

Inuit communities opposed a proposal to expand an iron ore mine on Baffin Island in northern Canada.

An Inuit organization in the territory of Nunavut, in northern Canada, voted against supporting the planned expansion of a contentious iron ore mine, after local Inuit communities raised fierce opposition to the proposal.

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) said in a statement Friday that its board of directors passed a resolution not to support the expansion of the Mary River mine on Baffin Island in the Arctic Archipelago. AQI’s mandate is to protect the rights and interests of the Inuit in the region.

The company in charge of the mine, Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation, had proposed to double its production from six to 12 million tonnes per year and to build a 110 km railway line connecting the site to a port, as well as a second wharf. port from which to ship. equipment.

“The Inuit did not participate in the development of the proposal, and key information on the impacts of the project remains unclear. Therefore, QIA’s board of directors will not recommend approval, ”QIA Chairman PJ Akeeagok said in the group statement.

Inuit hunters had erected a blockade at the Mary River mine last month to protest the proposed expansion, known as phase two of the development.

The Inuit hunt the narwhal, a whale sometimes called the “unicorn of the sea” because of its long tusk, in the summer in open water in the territory of Nunavut in Canada. [Courtesy Build Films/Oceans North]

Hunters, along with other residents and leaders of Inuit communities on Baffin Island, had raised concerns that the project would harm the wildlife they depend on for their survival, including narwhals, seals, caribou. and fish.

They also said their voice was not heard, as traditional Inuit knowledge – known as Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit – was not factored into the company’s consideration of the potential impacts. .

“The Inuit are being asked to take on so many risks, with very little benefit, or benefit in the form of money, that cannot replace our culture or wildlife or our harvesting practices,” Eric Ootoovak, president of Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers’ Organization (MHTO) in the Inuit hamlet of Pond Inlet, told Al Jazeera last month.

In its statement, AQI said its board had considered concerns about the effects of mine dust, the potential consequences for wildlife, the limited inclusion of Inuit knowledge and the lack of joint development of a “plan. adaptive management ”.

“QIA’s Board of Directors remains open to resource development in the Qikiqtani region and welcomes Baffinland’s proposals that prioritize Inuit participation from the start and that reflect an Inuit vision for the future.” , did he declare.

As part of its phase two expansion, Baffinland plans to build a railway from the Mary River mine to a port in Milne Inlet [Al Jazeera/Mapbox]

In a statement on Saturday, Baffinland said he had taken note of AQI’s decision, but was “happy” the organization said it welcomed the proposals to address concerns.

“We have worked with QIA and others for many years to develop an approach to advancing Mary River that meets strict environmental standards while providing significant control and oversight of mine operations to the Inuit.” said Brian Penney, CEO of Baffinland.

“We will continue our community outreach and seek to meet with AQI and others as soon as possible to discuss their concerns in order to find a mutually acceptable way forward.

The expansion is still before the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NRBB), which held environmental assessment hearings in January and February.

After further sessions scheduled for April, it will make a recommendation to the Canadian federal government on whether to approve it.

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