Final hearings on mining project start in Canada’s eastern Arctic

A helicopter passes over excavation equipment at the Mary River exploration camp, the site of a proposed iron mine on northern Baffin Island, in this Aug.17, 2006 photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Vinnie Karetak)Final hearings into what would be the largest industrial development in the North begin Monday morning in Iqaluit, the capital of Canada’s eastern Arctic Nunavut territory.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board will hear from the public, as well as government and Inuit organizations about the proposed iron ore mine at Mary River.

The hearings are the last opportunity for people to voice their concerns about the massive project.

The Iqaluit hearing begins Monday with a presentation from Baffinland, the company which hopes to build the mine.

“I think we’ve done a lot of good work with the reviewers and the various organizations. I think the final hearings are an opportunity for that to kind of come together. So I think it’s not only been a lot of hard work by the Baffinland team, but a lot of hard work by the other groups that have been involved in this process as well,” said Greg Missal, Baffinland’s vice-president of corporate affairs.

The Iqaluit hearings will run all week and there will be community roundtable discussions on Thursday and Friday.

“The final hearing for us, what makes it unique, is it’s the first opportunity that our board sits as a whole with the public and hears its concerns for a file,” said Ryan Barry, the executive director of the review board.

Few think mine will be stopped at this point

Some in Nunavut have had serious concerns about the possible impact of the mine, including people in Nunavik in northern Quebec. Makivik Corp., which represents Inuit in Nunavik, said it is concerned about the increase in ship traffic the mine would bring to Hudson Strait.

Despite concerns, few now seem to think it will be stopped.

Nick Arnatsiaq has served as a community liaison officer for Baffinland in the nearby community of Igloolik, where he’s also the mayor.

“Those who had opposed it before are now beginning to realize that the project is going to be going ahead. People are now putting emphasis on the need for people to start training for the jobs,” said Arnatsiaq.

Next week the hearings move to Igloolik and Pond Inlet.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board is expected to deliver its decision about the Mary River project within 45 days of the close of the hearings.

The proposed mine will be located on northern Baffin Island about 160 kilometres south of the community of Pond Inlet.

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