Residents in Igloolik, Nunavut, and some Baffin Island communities oppose plans for an iron mine in the area because its proposed marine shipping route cuts through Foxe Basin, where generations of Inuit have hunted for walrus.
Igloolik resident Jaypetee Palluq, who served on an environmental board collecting Inuit traditional knowledge for Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.'s proposed Mary River mine site, told CBC News on Friday that he would oppose the company's current plans to the very end.
Speaking in Inuktitut, Palluq acknowledged that communities around the Mary River site need jobs and money, but said those are less important than hunting walrus on existing routes on sea ice.
Palluq called on the company to find an alternate shipping route to the mine, regardless of the cost. He added that residents in Arctic Bay and Clyde River have also told him the project should not proceed as it is right now.
Igloolik Mayor Paul Quassa also expressed concerns about the effect of a year-round shipping route on marine mammals and sea ice.
At the same time, he said there is still time to work out a compromise with Baffinland, in hopes of giving Inuit both job opportunities and undisturbed walrus herds.
"They're going to have to assure us that the disturbance of our marine mammals is going to be minimal, that it's not going to affect our hunting techniques, our hunting ways," Quassa said Friday.
"I think these are the things that they're going to have to come up with before this community can say go ahead."
Quassa said Igloolik and Hall Beach are well known for producing aged, fermented walrus meat — a commodity that is too important to jeopardize.