Hunters blockade Nunavut mine in effort to get Inuit environmental concerns heard

Hunters have blockaded the airstrip and tote road to a Nunavut mine to express their concern that Inuit voices are not being heard in environmental hearings about a planned expansion to the Mary River mine. 

This protest started around 10 p.m. Thursday night as a two-week long scheduled review of the expansion is wrapping up. 

Baffinland’s Mary River mine is about 160 kilometres south of the community of Pond Inlet and 1000 kilometres northwest of Iqaluit on Baffin island.

Charlie Enuarak is the chair of a newly created group to advocate for the communities surrounding the mine — the North Baffin Group — he is also an Elder advisor for the protest. 

He says hunters are concerned that the expansion will reduce animal populations. 

“Hunters have set up tents on the airstrip and on the roads protesting no one listening to concerns from the hamlet and the hunters,” Enuarak said in Inuktitut. 

In an interview with CBC Nunavut’s Qulliq morning show he said the protest was peaceful and asked protestors not to destroy any of Baffinland’s equipment. 

Hunters groups are concerned that caribou would not be able to cross a railway that is part of the proposed expansion and increased shipping will drive away marine wildlife.

Enuarak says he’s not sure how long the protest will continue. Protesters are from at least two communities, Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay. 

The mining company, Baffinland, said in a Friday morning release that it’s in communication with the hunting group and respects the right to peacefully protest. 

The fraught hearings are looking at a proposal to double the amount of iron ore shipped from the mine through a habitat for the world’s largest population of narwhal.  

Versions of this expansion have been under regulatory review since 2014. For the past two weeks, local hunters groups, Inuit organizations, environmental groups and governments have been engaged in what was expected to be the final meetings.

However, earlier this week a motion was accepted that set more hearings for March as the five communities surrounding the mine feel their questions are not being answered by the mining company.

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