Nunavut mine pushes ahead with injunction against hunters, despite end to blockade

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Baffinland Iron Mine Corp. has pushed ahead with an injunction against a group of Nunavut hunters who blocked the road and airstrip at its Mary River mine in protest of a plan to expand the project.

A group of seven Inuit hunters, who call themselves the Nuluujat Land Guardians, protested at the mine for a week before departing on Feb. 10.

But Brad Armstrong, lawyer for Baffinland, argued the injunction is necessary “to be sure that these blockades do not reoccur.”

“It is necessary to ensure that the company can continue its operations without interruption. It will tell the Guardians they cannot come back,” Armstrong said.

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Armstrong’s comments came during a Saturday-morning hearing at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.

Guardians’ lawyer Lori Idlout countered that the injunction was unnecessary, citing the hunters’ decision to end the blockade of their own accord.

She said the protest ended after the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, the organization representing Inuit in the region, and land-claim body Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. offered the hunters a face-to-face meeting, which they accepted.

Idlout said the hunters have since returned to their home communities of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay, some of which are more than 300 kilometres from the proposed mine expansion.

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Baffinland is in the middle of environmental hearings on its bid to double the mine’s output of iron ore from six million to 12 million tonnes and build a 110-kilometre railway from the mine to the ocean for shipping. The railway would be the only one in Nunavut and the most northern in Canada.

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Some hunters and community members in the North Baffin region have said they fear the company is moving too fast and not properly considering the effects an expansion would have on wildlife, including narwhal and caribou populations.

Baffinland asked for a temporary injunction against the hunters last week, which was in place until Saturday’s hearing.

Baffinland said the blockade had caused some 700 employees at the mine to be stranded and grounded all food and supply flights to the mine.

Idlout argued that extending the injunction is unnecessary because the hunters had immediately responded to the court’s order and are in the middle of planning for their upcoming meeting.

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“They are few in numbers and their resources are focused currently on meeting with Inuit organizations to advance their environmental goals and protecting Inuit rights,” Idlout said.

The day and time of the meeting has not yet been set.

If granted, the injunction would legally prevent the hunters from blockading the site.

Nunavut Justice Susan Cooper did not deliver an immediate ruling on the application, saying she needs some time to come to a decision. In the meantime, the temporary injunction ordered last week will stay in place.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2021.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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