North

Hunters want food security over cash, says QIA in response to Baffinland mine plan

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association is calling for the Nunavut iron ore mine to slow production until the mine's effect on surrounding animal habitats is better understood.

Qikiqtani Inuit Association hopes mine will talk about food security at 2nd technical meetings

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association hopes that Baffinland will give more information at a second technical meeting, about how it will mitigate effects on animals during its planned expansion. (CBC)

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) says it's premature of the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation to be applying to double production of iron ore at its Mary River mine on north Baffin Island in Nunavut.

"There's still a lot of unanswered questions that hunters have concern over," said Levi Barnabas, the QIA member-at-large in Arctic Bay, and the co-chair for the Baffinland file.

Baffinland is currently licensed to produce six million tonnes of iron ore, and ship it out through Lancaster Sound. It is in the process of applying to double production. The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) has to approve the increase, and recently told the company that it didn't provide enough information at technical meetings, so there will be a second round of meetings.

Levi Barnabas, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association member-at-large in Arctic Bay, says that the ore isn't going anywhere, but the animals are. He hopes Baffinland will figure out how to mitigate effects on animal habitats on north Baffin Island, before it doubles production at the Mary River mine. (Submitted by Qikiqtani Inuit Association)

During the meetings at the beginning of April the company couldn't answer many questions about the effects its current production has on animals and the environment.

Barnabas said there haven't been any reports provided to QIA or the community of Pond Inlet — the closest community to the mine — on the impacts on marine mammals since the mine started shipping ore out.

Trucks that transport ore from mine to port, drive through a caribou migration route, said Barnabas. He said that hunters are having to travel further to find the animals, and with its proposed expansion the mine wants to build a rail line in the area.

Concern over country food

Barnabas wants to hear how the company is going to mitigate impact on animals in the area before it expands production and builds more infrastructure.

Mine activity is making the availability of country food less secure, Barnabas said.

Even if the mine offers to give more money to the communities, that won't increase food security, he said.

"So that's more risk for hunters than money can provide," Barnabas says.

Echoing what a scientist studying narwhal acoustics in the mine's shipping lanes said, Barnabas thinks Baffinland should slow down its production.

"The ore is going to be there regardless of whether it's rushed, it still can be mined," Barnabas said.

CBC has reached out to Baffinland to ask about QIA's concerns; nobody from the company has replied.

The second round of technical meetings will be held at the Iqaluit Cadet Hall from June 17 to 19.

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