Baffinland shipping proposal has North Baffin hunters concerned

Hunters in Arctic Bay say they're concerned their over-ice route to Pond Inlet might become impassable if Baffinland gets its wish to extend its shipping season.

Worried icebreaking could affect spring over-ice route between community and Pond Inlet

A view of Baffinland Iron Mine's camp at Milne Inlet in Nunavut in August 2014. (Baffinland)

Hunters in Arctic Bay say they're concerned their over-ice route to Pond Inlet might become impassable if Baffinland gets its wish to extend its shipping season.

The company has proposed extending its shipping season to 10 months a year, from June to March, which would require icebreaking during part of the year. The proposal will be heard by the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

Jobie Attitaq, chair of the Ikajutit Hunters and Trappers Organization in Arctic Bay, says his organization's main concern is that the route between Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet used in the spring would be affected.

Similar concerns came from Pond Inlet earlier this week. 

There, hunters say they're not against extending the shipping season, but they don't want it to happen 10 months of the year. 

"We don't want our ice to be used for shipping during the spring time," said Matthias Qaunaq, vice-chair of the Pond Inlet hunters and trappers organization, in Inuktitut.

Qaunaq says in the winter season, broken ice would freeze again quickly, allowing people safe passage on the ice.

But he'd like icebreaking to be closed "from the beginning of March to the beginning of July, ideally while young seals are around and so that we can travel across to hunt."

March 'cold enough'

One researcher says icebreaking in March shouldn`t pose a problem for travellers. 

"I would argue that March would still be cold enough," said Dr. Christian Haas, the Canada Research Chair for Arctic Sea Ice Geophysics at York University. "That it would be no different from January or February."

Attitaq says for the most part, his community will stand by whatever Pond Inlet decides.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board is expected to put out a call for comments on Baffinland's proposal this week.


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