Despite big worries, QIA open to working with Baffinland
“We have to make it right, and a project such as Mary River, it can be part of the solution”
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s presentation July 18 at the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s final public hearing on the proposed Mary River iron project raised big concerns, but QIA remains optimistic that the two can work together.
QIA President Okalik Eegeesiak started off her organization’s presentation by saying QIA wants to work closely with Baffinland, but that the concerns of communities and committees involved must be answered for the project to proceed.
“We don’t consider industrial development an automatic solution for communities. We have to make it right, and a project such as Mary River — it can be part of the solution,” Eegeesiak said.
“If the proper steps aren’t taken, or the right solutions don’t fit, then this project has the potential to only make things worse,” Eegeesiak said.
The director of QIA’s department of major projects, Stephen Williamson Bathory, said Inuit are uneasy about the project.
“Inuit still feel the potential for serious negative outcomes or challenges to actually realizing benefits are being downplayed in the final environmental impact statement,” Williamson Bathory said.
“QIA would like to further highlight that all partners… must therefore turn their attention to identifying and committing to human and financial resources that will be necessary to sustain project monitoring and mitigation efforts over the lifespan of the project,” Williamson Bathory said.
He said QIA is worried about future impacts if mining continues longer than Mary River’s expected lifespan.
“It is QIA’s opinion that increases in the ore production rate above the nominal rate could result in changes to the predicted impacts, particularly for socio-economic, terrestrial, and marine environments,” said Williamson Bathory.
A production rate of 18 million tons of iron ore per year was used in the final environmental impact statement, with higher and lower production rates considered in alternative assessments.
QIA recommended that the NIRB set a maximum nominal production rate for approval of the product.
“QIA also respectfully notes that NIRB, through project scoping and subsequent guidance upon which the EIS has been based, could have offered more direction on what can be considered an appropriate production rate for the purposes of assessing this project,” Williamson Bathory said.
“The QIA cannot understate the risk to Inuit if the capacity of agencies to fulfill their role in key works is not addressed,” he said.
The process of overwintering — storing fuel in large containers throughout winter — “goes against the desires of Inuit” said Williamson Bathory and he wants more security in place if a spill were to occur.
But “overwintering in the North is done, and done safely,” Baffinland’s legal adviser, Brad Armstrong, said in response
Armstrong said the Canada Shipping Act regulates overwintering, and that the practice is overseen by Transport Canada.
Transport Canada is to develop guidelines for overwintering in 2013.
Other big Inuit concerns that QIA cited include:
• The socio-economic impacts of the project
• The impact on caribou
• The choice of Steensby Inlet as a port site
• The impact of shipping on marine mammals
• Community-based monitoring
• The working groups that will be set up to monitor the project.