Inuit hunters blockade iron mine in freezing temperatures over expansion – by Leyland Cecco (The Guardian – February 9, 2021)

Standoff exposes tensions between large Inuit organizations with power to approve permits and residents of small communities

A group of Inuit hunters have braved nearly a week of freezing temperatures to blockade a remote iron mine in northern Canada, in protest over an expansion plan they say will harm local wildlife.

The blockade, which has prompted solidarity rallies in other Nunavut communities, has also exposed growing tensions between large Inuit organizations with the power to approve development permits – and residents of the small communities where the impact of such projects is felt.

Since 5 February, seven hunters have created a makeshift barrier of snowmobiles and sleds to block the airstrip and service road of the Mary River ore mine, halting operations. Temperatures in recent days have dipped to the low -30sC.

At issue are controversial plans drawn up by the mine’s operator Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation to double output. To bring 12m tonnes of iron ore to market, the mine has said it needs to build a railway to a port near the community of Pond Inlet.

But hunters have pushed back over fears that the expansion could threaten the populations of caribou and narwhal – two key sources of food – if approved.

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