Firm hiring for Nunavut seismic testing, but project not yet approved
Consortium cites short hiring window for timing of advertisement
Updated March 5, 4:45 p.m.
The mayor of Clyde River is wondering why the consortium that wants to conduct seismic testing off the east coast of Baffin Island is hiring people when it hasn’t received approval for the project yet.
This makes him wonder if they know something he doesn’t.
“The way the [federal] government is going, yes, I think they’re going to approve it,” said Jerry Natanine.
“It is really discouraging. Clyde River people, we’re not against creating jobs and we all use oil and gas and we know we need it. We do want the oil up there, but not in the way they’re doing it,” he said.
In an email sent to Nunatsiaq News March 5, Nexus spokesperson Alanna Gauthier said that although the National Energy Board has not yet approved the project, the company was obliged to advertise jobs because of the short hiring window.
“In the event that the project was approved, and the proponents planned to begin this summer, there is a small window of opportunity to hire and train candidates for the advertised positions,” Gauthier wrote. “The early announcement of these job opportunities provides a sufficient time for people to get required training for the jobs.”
Advertisements for jobs with the consortium — sometimes referred to as Nexus Coastal Resource Management — have started to appear in local media including Nunatsiaq News.
The consortium is seeking marine mammal seabird observers, fisheries liaison officers, community liaison officers and sea ice navigators.
“Work is planned to commence in August 2014,” the advertisement says.
Gauthier said they have already received applications from several Inuit across Baffin for these jobs, but not with Natanine’s help.
He said Clyde River and other communities received a copy of the Nexus job ad with a request to post it publicly but, because they are opposed to the project, Clyde River did not post it.
The joint project application by TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company, Petroleum GeoServices and Multi Klient Invest, first presented to the NEB in May 2011, called for sound-producing devices to run scans from air guns to the sea floor for a period of two months each year for five years.
Seismic testing is often done to identify geological anomalies under the sea bed that could be targets for oil and gas drilling.
The NEB will eventually forward its recommendation to Canada’s aboriginal affairs minister who will then decide whether to allow the project, since Ottawa has jurisdiction over offshore waters beyond the 12-mile limit.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has just conducted a series of public consultations in the Baffin region as part of a strategic environmental assessment of potential oil and gas development in Davis Strait and Baffin Bay.
Natanine said people were told the minister would likely make a decision this summer or fall. We contacted AANDC but they have not returned our phone calls.
Natanine, who was just sworn in as Clyde River mayor in January, is among many people and groups in the Baffin region who oppose the testing proposal, mainly because the potential impacts the underwater sound waves could have on marine animals, fish and corals.
And those impacts would be compounded if companies actually went ahead to drill for oil and gas there, he said.
Oceans North Canada reports that Baffin Bay and Davis Strait are home to an estimated 50,000 narwhals — most of the world’s population. The area is also home to bowhead whales, 116 species of fish and an estimated one million seabirds.
“We just don’t know the effects it will have on the mammals and the halibut. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some study going to monitor how it’s effecting them,” Natanine said.
“The NEB and those guys, for them it doesn’t seem like it has any bearing on anything. They just don’t care.”
The NEB has made available all correspondence on the matter including a strongly worded resolution from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s annual general meeting that said Baffin communities must have more information on oil and gas developments in their midst before supporting them.
Although the consortium has conducted an environmental assessment and is confident it can avoid impacts on the marine environment through the timing of the tests and with the help of marine animal spotters on their boats, they admit they cannot be sure.
“We all strive for certainty in understanding the impacts that any new development will have on the environment; however such certainty cannot be reached,” says a Nov 8, 2013 letter from RPS Energy, on behalf of the consortium, to the NEB.
RPS Energy, according to its website, has already completed similar sounding 2D and 3D seismic surveys off the coast of Greenland.
Natanine said he and his fellow opponents would support this kind of development if it were done properly through an independent impact and benefits agreement which, by its nature, outlines how the project could help and harm the local economy and the traditional way of life.
“That’s our main concern, the environment and the animals. That’s our life,” he said.
He added that oil and gas could bring millions of dollars in investment and revenue and Inuit deserve to be partners in that.
The problem is that the consortium is not planning to drill for oil and gas; they just want to know where to find it so they can provide that information to potential clients in the energy sector.
But Natanine said he knows this is a crucial first step toward development and once the ball gets rolling, the momentum may be difficult to stop.
And Natanine vowed opponents will not go down without a fight.
“There’s going to be other avenues that we will go through to oppose it. I cannot say what they will be right now because we’re hoping it doesn’t get there.”
The Baffin region mayors are meeting this week in Iqaluit where Natanine said he expects they will pass a resolution opposing the project until the consortium builds a meaningful partnership with Inuit.