Let’s face it, not all mining companies play nice.
Some mines in Nunavut have made gestures of good faith such as Agnico Eagle delivering million dollar donations to community groups and education initiatives in Rankin Inlet and Baker Lake earlier this year.
But, at the end of the day, these mines are most concerned about the bottom line.
This became abundantly clear when 586 contractors were laid off at Baffinland’s Mary River iron mine mere weeks before the holiday season due to “uncertainties” with the regulatory approval process for the next phase of the mine’s expansion.
As Baffinland looks to increase iron ore output from six million tonnes of ore to 12 and build a 110-km railway on Baffin Island, it has been consulting with affected communities.
To make sure this communication is thorough and sufficient, it’s important that everyone takes their time.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk recently requested a recess of up to a year to gather more information essential to deliberations about the mine’s expansion plans.
Many issues are wrapped up in this project from the economy to environmental damage to the future of many working Inuit.
Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq made a blunt statement in the legislative assembly on Nov. 6, pointing out that Baffinland has made numerous changes to its proposed plans over the years, leading to confusion and eroding trust.
“In order for the community to find common ground, we need the full picture so that we can have greater confidence that decisions are being made based on a complete set of facts,” Qamaniq said.
The iron miner has proven to be an economic driver and a provider of good jobs in a place that doesn’t have many. Even so, the company has failed to meet its Inuit employment targets of 25 per cent, reaching only 14 per cent in 2018.
However, with initiatives like the Qikiqtani Skills and Training for Employment Partnership (Q-STEP), Baffinland, in partnership with the regional Inuit association, is trying to makes its workforce better reflect the territory’s demographics.
While Nunavut’s mines have faced criticism for not having Inuit in management positions, courting born-and-raised Nunavummiut like Udlu Hanson as a vice president at Baffinland is a step in the right direction.
With Inuit in management, investors will better understand their point of view, which is critical. It would also help address community concerns such as impacts on caribou, seals, whales and walrus, which remain essential sources of food for many.
Sacrificing traditional Inuit activity for the sake of increased revenue is simply not an option.
Baffinland has taken steps toward increased environmental monitoring and is promising more, but the most important monitoring of all will be monitoring the mining company itself.