Inuit eager to meet Baffinland's new owners
Pond Inlet, Nunavut, located closest to Mary River iron site
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 | 12:04 PM ET
Baffinland has been working on opening an iron mine at its Mary River high-grade iron ore property on Baffin Island. (Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.)Inuit living closest to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.'s proposed mine in Nunavut say they hope to talk soon with the company's new owners, ArcelorMittal and Nunavut Iron Ore Acquisition Inc.
The two companies acquired the vast majority of Baffinland's shares last week, giving them control of the company's Mary River high-grade iron ore project, about 160 kilometres south of Pond Inlet, Nunavut, on northern Baffin Island.
"What we're hoping for is we'll carry on from where we left off with the original company," Philip Paneak, who represents Pond Inlet on the Qikiqtani Inuit Association's board of directors, told CBC News.
"What we've been saying in the community is that we wouldn't want to see things start from scratch."
Baffinland has been working on opening a mine at the Mary River property, which is believed to contain at least 865 million tonnes of iron ore.
ArcelorMittal and Nunavut Iron had been in a bidding war for Baffinland until last month, when the two companies teamed up to make a joint offer that valued the company at about $590 million.
The two companies have agreed to split Baffinland 70-30, with ArcelorMittal holding the largest stake.
Hopes past commitments will stand
Since Pond Inlet is the closest community to the Mary River site, Baffinland representatives have visited the hamlet every few months to discuss issues such as employment and environmental protection.The Mary River property is about 160 kilometres south of Pond Inlet, Nunavut. (CBC)
"Most of the concerns here in Pond Inlet are on caribou and other land animals around the Mary River area," Paneak said.
Now that European steel-making giant ArcelorMittal is involved, Paneak said he hopes Baffinland's previous commitments will stand and no new negotiations will be needed.
"Baffinland was easy to work with, easy to talk to," he said. "We're kind of leery about a giant company that we're going to have to deal with now."
Paneak said Baffinland officials are expected to come to Pond Inlet in the next month or so to meet with hamlet officials, the local hunters and trappers organization, and hopefully with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association as well.
Peter Taptuna, Nunavut's minister of economic development, said ArcelorMittal has the power to open a mine at Mary River, but the Nunavut government wants to see more than just jobs and economic prosperity in the region.
"It's got to be environmentally safe. The safety of people, the workers, have to be considered," he said.
The Mary River project is currently under environmental review.With files from The Canadian Press
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