Nunatsiaq News: Intervenors weigh in on when to reconvene Baffinland hearing
Regulatory talks about Baffinland’s proposed expansion of its Mary River mine should proceed “as soon as possible,” or face delays of up to one year, depending on which affected party you’re speaking to.
Intervenors recently submitted their comments on the matter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which must decide how to proceed after its hearing ground to a halt on Nov. 6, after Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said that concerns raised by Inuit hadn’t been adequately addressed.
While agreeing there were unresolved concerns to be addressed, the Government of Nunavut said the hearing should be rescheduled for the first available date, “unless another party can substantiate why it should be delayed longer.”
The GN noted the adjournment has already led to layoffs and cautioned that the mine plays a significant role in the territorial economy.
Already, Baffinland says it has laid off 586 contractors, including 96 Inuit workers, “due to the uncertainty of Phase 2 permit approvals.” No direct employees of Baffinland have been affected.
“On a yearly basis, the Mary River project accounts for 12 per cent of Nunavut’s total gross domestic product and employs approximately 470 Nunavummiut,” said the territorial government’s submission.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization of Pond Inlet was firm in its request for an adjournment for at least one year.
“We feel a process outlined by the NIRB, commencing with a request from parties to identify the major outstanding issues could be a useful starting point,” wrote chairperson Eric Ootoovak.
He proposed an additional technical meeting and a conference prior to the final hearing, so that commitments made on the outstanding issues can be tracked and those that remain can be identified. This was also proposed by several intervenors.
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association said a delay of one year, or more if the north Baffin communities request it, would be needed.
The beneficiary organization likened the process so far to regulatory talks over seismic testing near Clyde River and the Northern Gateway pipeline in British Columbia—two cases in which development projects were ultimately struck down because of a failed duty to consult and inform the affected people.
“QIA submits that, whichever alternative the board chooses, the important thing is to ensure that there is sufficient time for the proponent to substantially address the concerns consistently raised by Inuit parties regarding current key gaps in the technical record,” states QIA’s 26-page submission.
“Failure to do so is not in the public interest, as it would breach the constitutionally protected rights of the Inuit.”