Université Laval disputes Baffinland assertion that research station is tied to NIRB approval

Université Laval says its research station in Pond Inlet will go ahead with or without Baffinland. Though the company offered to ship some material to the community for the station's construction, the station head says they can afford to build it without.

'I wanted to make clear that they can make this decision independently of this research station': Laval prof

An aerial view of the Baffinland Iron Mine at Mary River on North Baffin Island. (Baffindland Iron Mine Corp. )

Université Laval is trying to set the record straight after Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation published a poster saying the university's research station in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, won't be built if the Mary River Mine phase two expansion isn't approved. 

A poster from Baffinland circulating in Pond Inlet about the commitments the community will lose it doesn't support the expansion says that a "No" to phase two of its project from the Nunavut Impact Review Board would equate to a "No to a Pond Inlet Research Station in Partnership with Université Laval."

But Gilles Gauthier, the scientific director for the centre of northern studies at Université Laval, says that's not true.

Gauthier says the project is independent from Baffinland and they have no formal agreement with the mine.

Poster circulating in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, outlying commitments made By Baffinland that would be withdrawn if phase two isn't approved. The fourth line down reads 'No to a Pond Inlet Research Station in Partnership with Université Laval.' (Submitted to CBC)

"It's true that there was a financial commitment from the mine to our project," said Gauthier. "But it was a small commitment and if they withdraw it this doesn't change at all the fact that we will go ahead with the station." 

Gauthier says Baffinland offered to ship up the material to build the Pond Inlet research station, which is scheduled to be built in 2023. 

"Even though we value this contribution it is a very small per cent of the total budget," he said. 

This commitment makes up about five per cent of the project's $17.5 million budget, and without it Gauthier says there is still the money to go ahead. 

This research station is one of two that is being built by Université Laval in partnership with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association. The other station will be built in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut. 

Gauthier says a resident of Pond Inlet reached out to him about the poster, which was the first time he was made aware of it. He asked the company to clarify the error if it was raised during last week's final Nunavut Impact Review Board hearings on phase two. 

A look at some of the flyers Baffinland has prepared listing the benefits from the Mary River mine. (Jane George/CBC)

A pamphlet handed out at the hearing in Iqaluit says a benefit to Pond Inlet with the phase two expansion is a $300,000 partnership with Université Laval to build the research station. 

On Nov. 2 Université Laval made an official post on the Pond Inlet News Facebook page to make residents aware of the error. 

Section of a flyer handed out at the final Nunavut Impact Review Board hearings on phase two benefits to Pond Inlet. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

"For Inuit who need to make an important decision … [on phase two] I wanted to make clear that they can make this decision independently of this research station," said Gauthier. 

In an emailed statement from Baffinland, the company said the flyer is meant to indicate that the $300,000 contribution is at risk without phase two, and that a clarification statement to this effect was made at the hearings. 

"We cannot and would not speak on behalf of Laval University, or on behalf of its plans," said the statement. 


Jackie McKay


Jackie McKay is a Métis journalist working for CBC Indigenous covering B.C. She was a reporter for CBC North for more more than five years spending the majority of her time in Nunavut. McKay has also worked in Whitehorse, Thunder Bay, and Yellowknife. Follow her on Twitter @mckayjacqueline.