Op-ed: Clean, cooperative resource development is welcome, but that’s not what Baffinland offers

Nuluujaat Land Guardians member responds to Baffinland editorial

The Nuluujaat Land Guardians, a group of protesters opposed to the Mary River Mine expansion project, implemented a blockade in February 2021, drawing international attention to their fight with Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., over a proposal they say would disrupt caribou and narwhal habitat, threatening the traditional Inuit way of life. (Photo by Nunavut Court of Justice)

By Joelie Pewatoaluk
Special for Nunatsiaq News

We agree with some of what Paul Quassa said in his recent editorial promoting the Baffinland mine.

We agree that Nunavut should be a vibrant and self-sufficient territory, that developments must protect Inuit land and culture, and that it is possible to coexist resource extraction projects and Inuit hunting.

Where we strongly disagree is on whether Baffinland Iron Mine Corp.’s Mary River Mine expansion proposal. falls within one or other of these objectives. Based on our experiences with Baffinland and its mine, we believe this expansion is not compatible with Inuit hunting and is in fact a threat to Inuit land, culture and self-sufficiency.

Joelie Pewatoaluk is a member of the Nuluujaat Land Guardians. (Photo courtesy of Joelie Pewatoaluk)

Since Baffinland opened its mine, hunters and elders have seen serious effects on our animals and land. We have seen the animals decline. And that’s only at current production levels. Narwhal calving grounds are under threat. A key caribou migration route could be disrupted by the railroad Baffinland wants to build.

We have tried to engage in good faith with Baffinland to have our concerns addressed. We are not against any mining. We just want mining to be done in a socially and environmentally responsible way. But Baffinland refuses to take meaningful action to address Inuit concerns.

Environmental working groups that are supposed to monitor the impacts of the mine and recommend changes are dysfunctional and ineffective. We have heard stories of Inuit mine employees being racially profiled and fired without just cause. Baffinland has lost community trust by ignoring or refusing to use Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.

In our experience, Baffinland is a bully. What we and many Inuit are seeing is a corporation trying to manipulate, pressure and coerce Inuit into accepting a project that could destroy our way of life. We see a company trying to exploit the Inuit economically and culturally.

Baffinland tries to present itself as the solution to all our problems, our only path to a better future. But that ignores the fact that so many of our problems are actually caused or made worse by Baffinland. Communities outside of the five most affected are also ignored.

Mines come and go, but our communities will still be here after the mine is gone. We need to take care of our animals to make sure they are always there to support us and our traditions.

We tell you that this mine hurts us. We say no to this expansion. Our culture and traditions are not for sale.

Joelie Pewatoaluk is a member of the Nuluujaat Land Guardians.

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