A protester lawyer who blocked the Baffinland Iron Mines Mary River mine for a week said the company’s request for an injunction was “premature and premature” if further negotiations could be held instead.
These protesters ended their blockade of the mine’s runway and truck lane on Thursday after a court order called for flights to resume so some of the more than 700 workers stranded in the mine could return home.
This immediate action shows that the group is “law abiding,” said attorney Lori Idlout on Saturday during an injunction in the Nunavut Court of Justice.
The demonstrators, who call themselves Nuluujaat Land Guardians, are back in their home communities today.
The group, made up of residents of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay, traveled over 200 kilometers to return to their home communities. The distance they traveled to get there is an example of their dedication to getting out of the blockade, she said.
“There are few and their resources are currently focused on meeting with Inuit leaders to advance their environmental goals and Inuit rights,” Idlout told the court.
Inuit leaders negotiating benefits with the mine – Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association – have promised to meet face-to-face with protesters. There is no set date for these meetings.
Their protest is against a mine expansion that would double Baffinland’s iron ore production to 12 million tons per year. There are also plans to build a railroad from the mine deposit to its port on Milne Inlet. The harbor is at the entrance to a primary habitat for narwhals in the Canadian Arctic.
A view of Milne Port. If an expansion is approved, Baffinland would increase shipping through a narwhal habitat. (Submitted by Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation)
It’s about their land and harvest rights. According to court documents filed by Baffinland, guardians also called for more direct financial benefits from mining for their communities. The mine says it is Nunavut’s Inuit organizations that are responsible for bringing mining benefits to the communities.
At the recent meetings for an ongoing review of the project by the Nunavut Impact Review Board, community representatives from communities and hunter groups said they do not see these benefits at the community level.
Baffinland is pushing for a restraining order to prevent future protests
Operations on the Mary River have resumed.
In court, Nunavut Justice Susan Cooper extended the restraining order for protesters to move and resume flights.
The hearing is adjourned for now while Cooper reviews new documents. There is no set court date on which the injunction will be heard next.
If granted, an injunction would legally prevent the demonstrators from further blockade.
As the mining company signs a lease with the Qikiqtani Inuit Organization to work on Inuit-owned land, attorney Brad Armstrong said the blockade has halted Nunavut-approved land use.
“It’s important to [the injunction] be extended to ensure these blockages do not recur, “Armstrong said in court.
The mine has reason to believe further protests are possible, he said, based on a press release on Wednesday in which the guards said they were “obliged to continue trading on the land unless they can make progress on it.” see the proposed meeting “.
Idlout says their message shouldn’t be interpreted that way. The defense asserts that legal restrictions were never necessary.
And when the interests of private companies are weighed against indigenous rights in court, serious weight should be given to the indigenous party, Idlout told CBC News.
The protesters blocked the runway and the road until Thursday. Baffinland wants an injunction so they cannot take over the mine site again. (Submitted by Lee Inuarak)
While protesters said from the start they would let staff and medical flights through, the mine said it couldn’t function safely while there were snowmobiles and tents on the runway and street.
Idlout has asked Nunavut residents not to post photos of the protesters while they go to court, as some remain anonymous.
The protesters say they do not represent a political organization and are not funded for their actions.
“You remain personally committed to responsible land use and Inuit rights,” said a spokesman for the demonstrators in a press release on Thursday evening.
The protest was supported by some miners. In an open letter from CBC, an anonymous group of mine workers said the lack of their flight home is “a small thing compared to the hundreds of years of colonization and cultural extinction” that Inuit have experienced on their land.
The Mary River extension has been under environmental review since 2014. There are still delays in a final hearing on this enlargement. The protest was just as a two-week hearing on the environment ended. One last set of these meetings is to take place in March in Iqaluit.