NEWS: Nunavut May 03, 2012 - 11:26 am

QIA, GN call for more monitoring and mitigation of impacts on caribou at Mary River

Proposed Mary River iron mine would be “first major development in a calving area in Canada.”

JANE GEORGE

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Goverment of Nunavut say they’re worried about the impact on caribou from the proposed Mary River mine, the “first major development in a calving area in Canada.”

They’re among organizations and agencies who are talking to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. at public technical meeting organized by the Nunavut Impact Review Board in Iqaluit, the last formal discussions before the iron ore project moves into final hearings.

But before the final hearings happens, the QIA and the GN said May 3 that they want to see Baffinland agree to create a formal committee on the monitoring and mitigation of land-based impacts, particularly on caribou.

The north Baffin caribou numbers appear to already be declining, the QIA’s Kim Poole said.

“It’s fairly obvious that there is a large degree of uncertainty,” with not a lot of western science available on the north Baffin caribou herd, he said —  that puts a cloud on all monitoring and mitigation plans and statements about impacts, he added.

While the mine may develop new deposits and the numbers and movements of caribou may change, “with the low levels of animals now, we’ll all have to work a little harder now to verify the impact predictions through increased monitoring,” Poole said.

The QIA and the GN also brought up lots of questions about the construction and operation of the 149-kilometre railway that Baffinland wants to build from the mine site at Mary River to the proposed port at Steensby Inlet.

The GN said Baffinland must take “every step” should be taken to avoid mortality due to train traffic, while the QIA challenged the final environmental impact assessment’s assertion that “caribou will easily pass under bridges and over the railway.”

That’s unproven, Poole said, with no examples from North America.

Baffinland countered that workers would stop if it’s “obvious” caribou are being disturbed.

But “who” would decide that, Poole asked Oliver Curran, Baffinland’s vice-president for sustainability.

“Those are the details we need to work out by means of a terrestrial working group,” Curran said, noting that there would be monitors and an environmental department on site.

But the NIRB’s executive director Ryan Barry pointed out that Baffinland needs to provide more details before the final hearings.

“You don’t want to leave this [until] after the project approval, “if that were to occur,” he said.

The meeting was to continue during the afternoon of May 3.

They’ll be back talking about the project’s socio-economic impacts, and its impacts on caribou, birds and habitat and related mitigation and monitoring programs at the Navigator Inn in Iqaluit.

Members of the public can also attend.