Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 03, 2012 - 11:20 am

QIA finds environmental issues with Baffinland sites

“They’d better clean up before they really start”

DAVID MURPHY
The Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. has stored seven million litres of diesel fuel inside collapsible rubber bladders at its camp at Milne Inlet, southwest of the community of Pond Inlet, shown here during the spring. (FILE PHOTO)
The Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. has stored seven million litres of diesel fuel inside collapsible rubber bladders at its camp at Milne Inlet, southwest of the community of Pond Inlet, shown here during the spring. (FILE PHOTO)

A site inspection at the Mary River project has revealed that several previously-raised environmental issues still remain, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association said in a presentation on Baffinland Iron Mine Corp.’s Mary River Project at QIA’s annual general meeting Oct. 2.

Joel Fortier, who led the site inspection for QIA, travelled to the Milne Inlet Camp, the Milne Tote Road and the Mary River camp at Baffinland’s expense in August, where he found leaky fuel bladders, an abundance of drilling salt, and incinerator ash spilling onto the land.

These issues have been raised with Baffinland in previous years, Fortier said.

But the environmental impact is not as bad as it sounds, he said.

“The camps are generally cleaner and more orderly than previous years. The majority of the issues that we have identified are issues that persisted from previous years,” Fortier said.

In terms of the issues, however, there is “evidence of decline” with fuel bladders at the Milne Inlet and Mary River camp.

But the bladders are contained safely to trap fuel when spilled out of the bladders, although some have ripped, according to Fortier. Some bladders are also halfway through their lifespans, whereas others need to be replaced. 

“There were many evidence of minor spills in the berms. There was also evidence that certain liners were ripped. QIA has notified Baffinland, because it’s important to fix these issues as soon as they arise. Because if containment fails, soil might be damaged and will need treatment,” Fortier said.

And the excess of salt, once used for drilling into the earth, sits on the land in storage bags that occupy the space of two football fields, and is an “eyesore.”

But this does not damage the soil, he said.

Baffinland has notified QIA that it will ship out the salt by next shipping season in the spring of 2013.

QIA is also keeping an eye on ash created by incinerators that burn garbage. The ash is kept in unsealed barrels, with some ash spilling on the ground, which has created a “contamination risk,” and the issue has been raised with Baffinland.

“During last year’s inspection, Baffinland had stated that they would seek approval to landfill the ash. This has still not occurred, so QIA will be monitoring the situation,” Fortier said. 

At the Tote Road site, Fortier found blocked and damaged culverts, flooded quarry areas and cracking road surfaces as well.

“We found general signs of damage due to permafrost. The majority of burrow areas along Tote Road contain water,” said Fortier. “QIA found significant degradation that has occurred compared to last year.” 

For QIA president Okalik Eegeesiak, these old concerns pose a concern.

“They are all concerns that have been identified by QIA for a number of years,” Eegeesiak said.

“They’d better clean up before they really start,” she said.

Baffinland has added an oily-water separator and a new five-million litre fuel storage tank at Milne Inlet, fish habitat compensation at Tote Road, and drip pans underneath trucks to contain oil spillage at the Mary River camp.

For QIA board member Simon Nattaq, this is the first time he is “feeling comfortable” about the project, but also warned that the site needs to be kept clean and safe.

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