WWF-Canada welcomes the decision by the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) to respect community concerns, protect threatened wildlife and reject Baffinland’s proposed expansion of the Mary River Iron Mine.
And we urge the Government of Canada to agree.
NIRB chairperson Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq warned that the expansion risked “significant adverse ecosystemic effects on marine mammals and fish, caribou, and other terrestrial wildlife [and] significant adverse effects on Inuit harvesting, culture, land use and food security in Nunavut.”
Alongside the 441-page report, Kaluraq’s letter to Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal recommends the federal government turn down Baffinland’s request because these negative impacts can’t be “adequately prevented, mitigated, or adaptively managed.”
We are grateful that NIRB conducted such an extensive review amid the challenges of COVID — examining the evidence, listening to affected communities and finding that the project, as proposed, is not environmentally acceptable on land or sea.
The Phase 2 proposal includes a 110-km railway, the first-ever in Nunavut. With a route crossing habitat of a caribou herd whose numbers have declined by an estimated 99% since the 1990s, it poses is an unprecedented, unacceptable risk.
It would also increase shipping traffic from the current 198 to 384 vessel transits a season. Baffinland’s own surveys have found that narwhal populations in Eclipse Sound declined from 12,039 in 2016 to 2,595 in 2021, which should urge a cautious approach.
We also appreciate that transboundary impacts were considered by NIRB, as the proposed doubling in shipping traffic through the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area could also cause potential harm to the environment, wildlife, and communities of Greenland.
We are now hopeful that Min. Vandal and the Trudeau government, which has put such a strong emphasis on reconciliation, will follow through by listening to the Indigenous residents of Pond Inlet and surrounding communities who have voiced their concerns for this project.
The government must accept NIRB’s recommendation and recognize the significant impact this mining project is already having on wildlife and Inuit culture, health, and wellbeing.
The evidence is in, and the answer to the proposed expansion must be: NO.