Nunavut Inuit call for public hearing on iron mine expansion – by Beth Brown (Nunatsiaq News – October 13, 2017)

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the Hamlet of Pond Inlet have called on the Nunavut Planning Commission to hold a single in-person public hearing in the North Baffin community before the commission considers a land use plan amendment that would allow a new railway and winter shipping route to service the Mary River mine.

The call comes by way of public submissions made to the NPC after Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. submitted a proposed amendment to the land use plan, Aug. 31, for the second phase of its iron ore project.

The amendment asks to construct a 110-km railway along the route of the existing tote road between the mine and the Milne Inlet port and to allow winter icebreaking in Milne Inlet and Eclipse Sound so freight can be shipped in December, January and February.

It’s not the first time the mine’s expansion plans have been put before the planning commission. In 2015, the NPC said the mine’s second phase plans did not conform with the North Baffin Regional Land Use Plan.

But the scope of the project has changed since then and a revised version of the Phase 2 proposal is back before the planning commission. The QIA, in a submission said the commission can’t responsibly make amendments without first consulting with the community.

“Shipping through ice is not akin to shipping in open water. Treating these activities as one and the same is inappropriate. Development of a railway, a unique piece of infrastructure, to facilitate ore transport is not akin to a smaller scale trucking operation on a pre-existing roadway,” the seven-page Oct. 2 submission by the QIA to the NPC reads.

“From QIA’s public consultations, it is very clear that the proposed addition in the marine transportation corridor of ice breaking and the rail route have raised serious concerns.”

Pond Inlet Mayor Joshua Katsak said that members of his hamlet council and residents of his community want to be heard.

“They think it will have an impact on the breeding season,” he wrote in a hamlet submission to the NPC, dated Sept. 27.

Katsak’s letter states that councillors fear that the mine’s second phase will go on without adequate consultation, and that concerns already expressed about the first phase of the project are not being addressed.

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