Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic January 08, 2018 - 11:30 am

Baffinland railway may be “dead,” Pond Inlet group declares

Committee alleges QIA is in a conflict of interest

JIM BELL
This illustration shows the type of embankment that Baffinland would likely have to use for its proposed Mary River to Milne Inlet railway. (BAFFINLAND IMAGE)
This illustration shows the type of embankment that Baffinland would likely have to use for its proposed Mary River to Milne Inlet railway. (BAFFINLAND IMAGE)
The existing mine site at Mary River, from which Baffinland is now allowed to extract and ship up to 4.2 million tonnes of iron ore. The company wants regulators to change the rules to allow the shipment of up to 12 million tonnes via a railway to Milne Inlet. (IMAGE FROM BAFFINLAND SUBMISSION TO NPC)
The existing mine site at Mary River, from which Baffinland is now allowed to extract and ship up to 4.2 million tonnes of iron ore. The company wants regulators to change the rules to allow the shipment of up to 12 million tonnes via a railway to Milne Inlet. (IMAGE FROM BAFFINLAND SUBMISSION TO NPC)

The controversial 110-kilometre railway that Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. wants to build between the Mary River iron mine and its port at Milne Inlet “may be dead in its tracks,” says a Pond Inlet hamlet committee.

In a statement released near the end of December, when Nunatsiaq News had shut down for the holiday period, the committee, which represents the Hamlet of Pond Inlet and the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, said they have “mounted a challenge” to Baffinland’s railway proposal.

“The Pond Inlet Hamlet Council, together with hunters and trappers organizations from several communities, have written letters, passed resolutions and submitted technical documents opposing the proposed railway,” the Pond Inlet statement said.

If it were ever constructed, the Milne Inlet railway would become the first railway north of the treeline in Arctic Canada.

It’s part of Baffinland’s ever-changing phase two expansion proposal, the first version of which dates to October 2014.

In the latest proposal, Baffinland wants government regulators to change the rules governing its operations at Mary River to allow the production and shipment of up to 12 million tonnes of ore each year through Milne Inlet, a big increase from the 4.2 million tonnes a year they’re allowed to ship through that route now.

At first, Baffinland proposed to transport that ore to Milne Inlet by increasing the number of haul trucks they use from 22 to 75.

But in February 2016, Baffinland said they now want to ship their ore by rail, in a project that would involve five diesel-electric locomotives and 176 rail cars, with five or six trains running each day at speeds of between 60 and 75 kilometres an hour, plus bridges, sidings and a railway embankment.

At first, Hamlet of Pond Inlet representatives appeared to welcome the new proposal, especially after Baffinland backed away from a proposal to ship ore for up to 10 months of the year, which would have involved punching vessels through sea ice in the earlier months of winter.

Pond Inlet committee dead set against railway

But now, the hamlet and the local hunters and trappers association oppose the railway scheme, and said so at informal public meetings in Pond Inlet held this past Dec. 4 and Dec 5 by the Nunavut Planning Commission.

After the proposal bounced like a pinball around the regulatory system for nearly three years, the issue heated up this past fall, when Baffinland’s expansion plan landed once again before the planning commission.

The planning commission must amend the North Baffin Regional Land Use Plan to allow the use of a railway inside the Mary River to Milne Inlet transportation corridor.

That’s because Nunavut’s regulatory rules state that any proposed development must conform to an existing land use plan before it can move to the Nunavut Impact Review Board for an environmental and socio-economic assessment.

But even before the railway scheme is moved to the review board, opponents of the proposal in Pond Inlet are using the land use planning process to oppose it on environmental and socio-economic grounds.

The local Mary River Phase Two Review Committee, which includes Pond Inlet residents appointed by the municipal government and by the hunters and trappers organization, say they oppose the railway for three main reasons:

• If built, the railway and its high embankment would create a barrier for hunters travelling in the area by snowmobile or dog team.

• If built, the railway would act as a barrier to migrating caribou and do serious damage to the already dwindling caribou herds in the area, and would damage other wildlife species.

• Pond Inlet has seen few benefits from the Mary River mine’s existing operation and Inuit employment rates “have been dismal in recent years,” falling to 12.5 per cent of the workforce, a long way from the 25 per cent target that Baffinland agreed to.

“While no other mines in Nunavut have achieved an Inuit-majority workforce, no project in recent years has suffered from such a poor Inuit participation rate,” the committee said.

The Pond Inlet committee also says they don’t trust Baffinland’s promise to avoid through-the-ice shipping.

“With the railway delivering greatly increased amounts of ore to port, residents are concerned that it’s just a matter of time before the company insists it requires year-round shipping,” the Pond Inlet committee said.

Is QIA in a conflict of interest?

And they also take aim at the organization that’s supposed to defend the interests of Inuit on development issues, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, saying the QIA is in a conflict of interest.

“To the extent that benefits and resources are directed to persons and activities that are not related to mitigating the social and environmental costs of resource development, QIA is in a conflict of interest, having a vested and institutional interest in supporting and encouraging resource development and the revenues it generates…,” the committee said in a written submission to the planning commission.

That’s because the QIA would make a lot more money than it does now from an expansion of iron ore production at Mary River, through royalty arrangements contained in its Inuit impact and benefit agreement with Baffinland and through other sources of revenue, such as gravel quarrying.

“Funds received by QIA can also go to operating and related expenses and can benefit the elected officials of QIA and others, in ways inconsistent with the principle of contributing “to achieving and maintaining a standard of living equal to other Inuit in Nunavut and to Canadians,” the committee said in its submission.

They also say that the QIA lacks transparency in communicating what it does with the revenues it receives from Baffinland.

“The only way that the extent and nature of this apparent conflict can be determined is through complete transparency, something that is, with respect to the income and expenditures of QIA, not available to Inuit in the region.”

They acknowledge that the QIA has used Mary River money to develop some social and cultural programs, but that without an adequate level of transparency, it’s impossible to assess “the extent and nature” of the QIA’s alleged conflict of interest.

They also say that the QIA should be held to the same standards of accountability and transparency that Baffinland must abide by.

And they urge the planning commission to be conscious of the QIA’s alleged conflict of interest when considering the QIA’s submissions to the commission.

QIA defends itself

To defend itself from Pond Inlet’s conflict of interest allegation, the QIA provided the planning commission with a supplementary submission to the planning commission.

In it, the QIA lists its legal responsibilities under various articles of the Nunavut Agreement and states that they “strive to balance Inuit interests in environmental protection with advantageous outcomes for Inuit.”

The QIA said all Mary River royalties must go into a special pot of money called the “legacy fund,” and that the QIA is not allowed under its bylaws to either terminate the fund or avoid contributing to it.

“No part of the capital of the legacy fund can be touched by QIA. Therefore royalty payments cannot be used by QIA for other purposes,” the QIA said.

The income generated by investment of the legacy fund goes into another pot of money that the QIA calls its “benefits fund.”

They’ve already used money from the benefits fund to pay for programs related to culture and children, two priorities they developed after consulting Inuit throughout the Qikiqtani region, the QIA said.

In 2018, that fund will generate $1.5 million that the QIA will distribute throughout the region, but in its Dec. 12 submission, the QIA did not list any Pond Inlet-specific contributions.

“QIA is accountable and transparent. Each year our annual report outlines the programming and funding available to Inuit,” the QIA said.

Baffinland actually has a project certificate, dating to 2012, that allows a railway. But it’s for a southern route leading to Steensby Inlet on Foxe Basin. The company has so far chosen not to implement that plan.

It’s not clear when the planning commission will rule on Baffinland’s request for a land use plan amendment for the Milne Inlet corridor.

But the company says it wants to start construction on the railway as early as the fall of this year.

Pond Inlet’s submissions were developed with technical help from Frank Tester of the University of British Columbia, Vincent L’Herault of the Université du Québec à Rimouski, and Warren Bernauer, a lecturer at the University of Manitoba.

  Pond Inlet Review Committee Submission to the Nunavut Planning Commission by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(17) Comments:

#1. Posted by Small towner on January 08, 2018

#WeTheNorth

#2. Posted by Amanda in Arviat on January 08, 2018

NPC stated via a “Notice of Timeline” circulated via email last week that it plans to consider the amendment proposal during its regular meeting in late February and that it expects to have a recommendation to the feds, GN and NTI in early March.

#3. Posted by North Baffin on January 08, 2018

Way to go Pond Inlet people and around the North Baffin Region. We Inuit need to work more together. I don’t have a trust to Baffinland Company anyhow and what so ever. They don’t promise their goal. The Baffinland treat Inuit so differently and they always see us nothing with low life. I wish to express my feeling more and the knowledge I have for the company as I’m a employee for the Baffinland. Baffinland Iron Mine is a joke company.

#4. Posted by Chesley on January 08, 2018

dead in its tracks, pun intended smile

#5. Posted by Pondinleter on January 08, 2018

now if BIM spent the money on this study instead of the “faux” Steensby Inlet study, and stuck with it, they would probably be farther ahead. I would like to say that QIA is quiet on this as they dont’ want to rock the boat on the money they intend to receive, a hangover from the last “administration”.  as for the local review committee?  well, its not to hard to say something about that, as 3 of the members come from the same family, and one is a former QIA committee executive. kinda puts things in perspective.  I’d like to say that this is status quo for the discussions, sad but it is.  at this point, BIM should start touting how many jobs its handed out, vs the impacts of a handful of hunters.  The railway disturbing dog teams? digging up stuff that is irrelevant.  no hunters use dog teams in that area any more. i’d like to see it.  the only use dog teams for polar bear hunts. no bears near mary river. and if a dog team is that far from pond, it is usually accompanied by a skidoo.

#6. Posted by Silas on January 08, 2018

Baffinland is making plans in an environment which they know very little about first hand. This is shown by the number of their rejected plans. They, like their ancestors who came north looking for the Northwest Passage, are going in blindly with plans they have not tested anywhere and saying this is what we are going to do now, what do you say?
No wonder Inuit are rejecting them. They should be making their plans for the environment, human resources, wildlife mitigation, and all aspects of their project in conjunction with Inuit communities then they would have some hope of making progress.
Other new mines in Nunavut are making progress as they are working with the communities affected and making changes so that Inuit concerns and those who know the Arctic and the area are consulted as they make their plans not after.
Inuit will be around long after these guys are gone and have a vested interest in how development takes place in the only home they know.

#7. Posted by Fed Up on January 08, 2018

Now we have academics from three southern universities: Queens, Manitoba and Quebec in the same issue of this newspaper all telling us how to manage our resources in Nunavut - all against development - all supporting continuation of the subjugation of Inuit to the welfare economy. I am fed up with southern academics and foreign-funded environmental organizations telling us in Nunavut how to run our affairs. The proposed railway will be located inside an existing transportation corridor which has been used to haul ore by truck for years since the mine began production. This is a very minor amendment to the North Baffin Land Use plan which was approved in the 1990s. The Milne Inlet tote road has been in place for years. This land use plan amendment to change the permitted use from ‘road’ to ‘railroad’ should be a no brainer. Baffinland can and should increase its Inuit employment and they are working hard with QIA and have just secured significant training dollars to train more Inuit..

#8. Posted by an Inuit community with a vision on January 08, 2018

#5 When the ground is massively disturbed to build a rail bed, there is no going back to undo the damage affecting every living thing along that rail line.  Perspectives from all angles does carry more valuable weight of information and nothing unusual for members of a community to be related in one way or another.

#9. Posted by Grateful on January 08, 2018

To #7: Dennis, the Pond Inlet HTO obviously sees things differently than you do. Are you seriously suggesting that “southern academics” told the HTO what to think? If Baffinland can employ “academics” to conduct studies, why can’t the HTO? Or is only one side allow to employ technical specialists to support the positions they have taken?

#10. Posted by Local on January 09, 2018

Hey everybody. How about looking into our Communities.

We have seen garbage blown by the winds from our dumps for over 20 years to the land and to our ocean.

There is contaminated soil in every Community in which our children play around.

We drain our raw untreated sewage to our beaches every year.

Ok, there’s nothing wrong with that since it’s our Community?

#11. Posted by secret on January 09, 2018

benefits fund
“In 2018, that fund will generate $1.5 million that the QIA will distribute throughout the region, but in its Dec. 12 submission, the QIA did not list any Pond Inlet-specific contributions.”
-QIA should start listing community specific contributions.  Time to be transparent. 

“Funds received by QIA can also go to operating and related expenses and can benefit the elected officials of QIA and others, in ways inconsistent with the principle of contributing “to achieving and maintaining a standard of living equal to other Inuit in Nunavut and to Canadians,” the committee said in its submission.”
-Maybe its time we only elect a president in for one term, giving a new Inuk the opportunity to benefit each term.  QC President should also be a fixed term position. 

Spread the wealth!  Hire more Inuit, or pull the project certificate!  Show some strength and transparency QIA!  Or risk fracturing the Baffin with seperate Inuit Orgs.

#12. Posted by Voter on January 09, 2018

“Maybe its time we only elect a president in for one term, giving a new Inuk the opportunity to benefit each term.  QC President should also be a fixed term position. ”

How can you get anything done in 12 months? I don’t think you know the process of how things get done in these types of positions. To make changes it takes time and 12 months is just not going to work, new person gets in new direction than another new person gets in and so on. Nothing would get done. What we need is more Inuit to get educated and trained to take on jobs that are there. Just being an Inuk does not guarantee you a job.

#13. Posted by secret on January 09, 2018

1 term isn’t 12 months.  I believe that the QIA President term is 4 years.  Correct me if I’m wrong.  Usually when a new president is voted in, the staff at QIA, would be the long term brain trust, making sure things run smoothly between the transition…

#14. Posted by Voter on January 09, 2018

Ah I see, I misunderstood, thank you for the clarification. I still think it would be better to vote for the best candidate, most Presidents don’t run after two terms, some last just for a few months.

I still think more Inuit need to get an education and training to make things change up here.

#15. Posted by secret on January 09, 2018

The 1 term president was just a suggestion to curb benefitting.  Maybe cap the number of times he can be president to 2-3 terms.  I also agree that the best candidate should be voted in, but if that candidate is benefitting, which this article suggests.  Maybe they aren’t the best candidate.  The QC president has a lot of power, money and access too.  Usually their are provision to protect the public purse from conflict of interest, but the RIO’s seem to be free of that requirement.  Correct me if I am wrong, maybe they get T-4’s and are taxed on their income. Idk. Maybe that should be public information. I agree education and training should be a big priority, and a huge push to include almost every aspect of a small community.

#16. Posted by Thinker on January 09, 2018

Why not do a reset?  Tender the assets out globally to other countries and companies to see what other kinds of approaches you get. 

Baffinland is NOT the only game in town! 

Maybe someone else can worker better with you, this should be a mutual partnership, but sounds kinda one sided with BIM?

#17. Posted by Voter on January 10, 2018

I usually don’t read too much into the articles on here, the whole picture is usually not there.
Yes there are T-4’s if not CRA would find something wrong. QC has a board where the President reports, I believe these board members are from most of the comments in Baffin. Also a audit is done yearly.
I think more people just need to attend meetings and ask questions or write letters and phone to get some information. Each community has a Director, a board member, get them to ask questions and bring information back to the communities.

More can be done for sure, let’s see more support for education and training.

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