Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut April 11, 2013 - 2:05 pm

Inuit org continues talks on Mary River iron mine

Qikiqtani Inuit Association looks to Nunavut Water Board hearings

SAMANTHA DAWSON
Okalik Eegeesiak, president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, speaks April 11 at the Nunavut Mining Symposium in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
Okalik Eegeesiak, president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, speaks April 11 at the Nunavut Mining Symposium in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association is getting ready for the Nunavut Water Board’s final hearings on Baffinland Mines Corp.‘s Mary River iron mine project.

These take place later this month in Pond Inlet, QIA president Okalik Eegeesiak said April 11 at the Nunavut Mining Symposium in Iqaluit.

Meanwhile, the QIA’s “Mary River project committees” continue to gather input about what people think about the project.

“While resource development may be inevitable, it must be sustainable,” Eegeesiak said during her presentation at the symposium.

Baffinland wants to build an iron mine that would produce 3.5 million tonnes of iron ore a year from the Mary River mine in northern Baffin Island — down from the much larger mine that the company planned to build until this past January when owners announced they would go ahead with a scaled-down project.

The QIA’s Mary River committees now include: community directors, community liaison officers, hunter and trappers organization representatives and community members at large, who must include a youth, an elder and a woman.

Committees are working hard to prepare for the water board hearings, which will consider issuing a water license for the Mary River project, Eegeesiak said.

As for an Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement, that’s still in the works, she said.

“It wasn’t active for a couple years, [but] is now in the final stages,” Eegeesiak told Nunatsiaq News.

Both the QIA and Baffinland are now “under pressure” to finalize the IIBA — with the last draft coming in at 200 pages, she said.

The QIA released a statement April 10 saying that QIA is “happy” with the level of progress being made in the negotiations with Baffinland.

“Qikiqtani Inuit have to understand the impacts… including all material being available in Inuktitut,” she said.

That proved to be a real challenge for the QIA, because of Baffinland’s 10 binders of technical language, but “the QIA staff managed to do it,” Eegeesiak said.

She made sure to remind the audience twice that the QIA “doesn’t only work on Baffinland issues” but admitted that Mary River project “is not without risk to Inuit.”

She said that it’s fair to expect benefits from the Mary River project “however, it must also be understood that the greatest benefit will come to those who seek them.”

One of the QIA’s goals is to “collaborate respectfully” and to draw benefits from Mary River to Inuit.

To that end, the QIA has made “significant financial investments” in the environmental review to “ensure communities are informed about the project.”

“These are commitments above the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement requirement,” Eegeesiak said.

The QIA has contributed $590,000 of its “own resources” to oversee community involvement with the Mary River project, she said.

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