QIA calls for close monitoring of Mary River mine
Nunavut regulator starts final public hearings in Iqaluit July 16
As final public hearings started this week in Iqaluit on one of the biggest resource extraction projects ever proposed for the eastern Arctic, the Mary River iron project, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association recommends a long list of measures aimed at monitoring and mitigating its effects on people and the environment.
Those recommendations are contained in a dense, 11-page document that QIA has submitted to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, whose final public hearings on the project kicked off July 16 at the Iqaluit cadet hall.
“We are now approaching final decision points and we must make the right decisions. I encourage you all to use these hearings as a venue to share your thoughts and wisdom to ensure that all decisions made are well informed,” QIA president Okalik Eegeesiak said July 13 in a news release.
In its submission, QIA recommends 59 measures for inclusion in a project certificate for the mine.
A project certificate represents one of the key legal permissions that Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. would need before starting construction of the Mary River project.
And the conditions attached to such a project certificate would set out many rules that Baffinland must follow.
Baffinland, owned by the European-based steel giant Arcelor Mittal, proposes to extract 21 million tonnes of iron ore a year over 21 years from the Mary River site.
The multi-billion-dollar project would see huge quantities of iron shipped to a port at Steensby Inlet along the first railway ever built north of the treeline in the Canadian Arctic.
From Steensby Inlet, massive 320-metre icebreaking ore vessels would move 12 months of the year through Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait to ports in Europe.
In response to the project’s potential environmental effects on the marine environment, QIA makes 25 recommendations.
Some of those include:
• measures aimed at monitoring and mitigating the effect of ballast water discharged from the vessels, including water treatment and sampling;
• monitoring of the effects of ship noise on marine mammals;
• monitoring of ringed seal lairs for at least two years prior to the start of icebreaking to establish baseline information;
• measures requiring that Baffinland report any contact with a marine mammal;
• oil spill dispersal exercises;
• tracking and reporting of vessel movements to communities, including ship tracks left in sea ice;
• constant monitoring of Steensby Inlet for sewage outfall, ballast water discharges and the gathering of data on walrus, beluga, bearded seal, Arctic char and other species;
• a special monitoring program for walrus that use Steensby Inlet;
• if marine mammals are encountered during shipping, wildlife must be given the right of way.
Other measures include:
• the employment and training of Inuit monitors ;
• the development of measures aimed at keeping caribou away from pits and other hazardous areas;
• a comprehensive hunter harvest study to look at the effects of the project on caribou populations;
• the creation of three working groups with representatives from government, QIA and the company: a marine environment working group, a terrestrial working group, and a socio-economic working group;
• the creation of Inuit work-ready and training programs.
The Mary River hearings in Iqaluit run from July 16 to July 21.
NIRB will then hold hearings in Igloolik from July 23 to July 25 and in Pond Inlet from July 26 to July 28.