Monitoring the Mary River Project

When a caribou walks on its main path as it always has, it will not sway sideways. If a seal or walrus senses new and unusual experiences, they shy away and move to their comfort zones. With the frequency of ships passing through Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait, the possibility of whales being hit increases. Any animal is prone to either become scared or curious of things that they do not understand or recognize. 

Inuit are extremely attached to the wildlife found in the Arctic. It is the reason why Article 5 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement is the thickest out of all of them. This means that if any major development occurs in Nunavut, there is sure to be conditions that would have to be met in regards to wildlife management and impacts to animals. From the Inuit point of view, this is talking about the traditional staple diet, food that nourishes and is directly connected to our bodies and sense of who we are.

If the Mary River project goes ahead, it would be sure to disturb the wildlife around it. Keeping a close eye on how animals are being impacted by the mining activities would be a critical job to carry out. Although scientific research is a good monitoring tool using baseline and survey data, Inuit knowledge and observations would be a significant contribution to any monitoring activities for the project.

The three major disturbances would be the mine itself, the railway as well as the port and year-round shipping. For the mine itself, Mary River would actually be transformed into an open-pit and thus changing the face and the Inuktitut meaning of the land called Nuluuyaat. Monitoring the rail seems straight-forward yet the biggest concern remains of how caribou would be impacted and the dynamite explosions to build a tunnel, the impacts this would have on nearby lake fish. And probably the largest concerns have involved the port and shipping components which means that monitoring the port facility and shipping lanes would likely be scrutinized most stringently.

How do you setup the monitoring of wildlife impacts? How will Inuit hunters go about making reports on wildlife disturbance, fatalities and overall impacts? Do community members have a role in wildlife monitoring? These questions and many more may or may not be answered just yet. However, the potential for Inuit to contribute into monitoring programs is great enough for them to be drivers in this aspect of the project. That is why QIA is pushing hard for Inuit to be directly involved in all monitoring programs and in some cases actually designing community based monitoring.

There are plans in place to hire Environmental Monitors that would be the front-line workers observing and reporting project activities. They would be employees of QIA that would be supported whenever necessary to perform their duties of making sure the Company is following its conditions. In addition to wildlife impacts that would need to be monitored, social conditions would have to be tracked too. This is why a Socio-Economic Monitoring Committee would be created to look at the social indicators that are directly tied in with the project.