Mary River

What is QIA’s Role in the Mary River Project?
“You [QIA] represent the Inuit. You need to know more than the company and how the wildlife will be affected to ensure that you can negotiate on our behalf. You need to be stronger to make sure that if the company is saying one thing you need to know other things. You can’t reply on what the company’s studies tell you.”
The communities that will be most affected by the Mary River Project are Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Hall Beach, Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Cape Dorset and Kimmirut and Iqaluit.

The QIA has several responsibilities when a development project is proposed. QIA, as a Designated Inuit Organization, is responsible for managing Inuit Owned Lands. QIA is also responsible for representing Inuit through the impact assessment and regulatory review process. Finally, QIA is also responsible for negotiating an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement (IIBA).

QIA implementation of these responsibilities is guided by the following principles:
  • Ensuring wise stewardship of land, air and water
  • Protecting Inuit rights to land use and traditional activities
  • Promoting Inuit language and culture
  • Ensuring effective education, training and life skills
  • Promoting individual and family well-being
  • Protecting social rights and values, and advocating for Inuit interests
  • Maintaining good community relations and communications
  • Maximizing Inuit benefits

An Overview of QIA’s Activities

In January 2012, QIA created a new department called the Department of Major Projects. It is responsible for all matters related to the Mary River Project. The Department coordinates with communities and participates in the following processes on behalf of Inuit.

Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB)

QIA has been very active in all stages of the environmental review of the Project, staring with the Bulk Sample Project.

In early 2011, QIA and the affected communities established Mary River Project Committees to act as direct links between QIA and the communities for the purposes of the environmental review.  One of the most important tasks of these committees was assisting QIA in preparing formal responses at different stages of the environmental review conducted by the Nunavut Impact Review Board. The Mary River Project Committees are supported by a full-time coordinator who has coordinated dozens of community meetings and several workshops with QIA, BIMC, government and regulators.

Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)

Prior to being permitted to operate, the Mary River Project must first go through a formal environmental assessment and regulatory review lead by the Institutions of Public Government (Nunavut Planning Commission, Nunavut Impact Review Board, and, Nunavut Water Board). A requirement of these processes is the submission of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which must describe the potential impacts associated with a project and the company’s plans to address such impacts.

QIA shares responsibility for the review and management of the Project with other agencies from the Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada. Based on instructions from the communities, QIA has placed great emphasis on working with other agencies to develop strong monitoring programs. QIA wants to see monitoring programs which can identify problems or surprises as they occur and then to have the capacity in place to act quickly to try and fix the problem.

Here is a summary of the main issues raised by QIA in relation to BIMC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
  • There was a lot of missing information to determine a baseline (starting point) for making impact assessments for the marine environment, terrestrial wildlife and engineering.
  • It was not clear to Inuit how the Company decided on what was, and, what was not a significant impact. There were lots of assumptions made that Inuit did not agree with.
  • There was no connection between environment and the lives of Inuit. This is important from an Inuit perspective because it is not possible to separate biophysical from cultural effects.
  • The risks and uncertainties involved in predicting outcomes and implementing mitigation measures are largely untested.
  • In many instances the absence of detailed monitoring and management programs makes it very difficult for Inuit to be confident about a commitment to adaptive management and effective mitigation.