Uranium mining rejected at Iqaluit public forum

Concerned Inuit cite nuclear threat in Japan, environmental risks
CBC News
Posted: Mar 18, 2011 Original article here

Many Nunavummiut who attended a uranium forum Thursday night said they do not want uranium mining in Nunavut, while some even attacked the territory’s Inuit group for supporting uranium development.

More than 120 people in Iqaluit came out to the public forum, which was organized by the Nunavut government as it works on developing its own policy on uranium mining in the territory.

After hearing from officials representing government, the mining industry and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, most of those who spoke made it clear that they want nothing to do with uranium mining.

Panel members at the Nunavut government's uranium forum Thursday night in Iqaluit.
Panel members at the Nunavut government's uranium forum Thursday night in Iqaluit. (Patricia Bell/CBC)

“For me, there’s about four industries that we should never go into, and they’re asbestos, uranium, the tobacco industry and building of weapons,” said Madeleine Cole, a family doctor in the city.

“We cannot agree to something for the next 1,000 years that our descendants have not agreed to. I think it is irresponsible,” resident Aaju Peter said at the forum.

The threat of a nuclear disaster in Japan, which was rocked by a devastating earthquake and tsunami last week, weighed heavily on the minds of many audience members.

“Somebody who’s watching the news over the past few days has to be thinking about the implications of uranium and radioactivity in general on the environment [and] on people,” said Robert Anawak.

Growing mining interest

The territorial government wants to establish its own position on uranium amid growing interest in Nunavut from mining and exploration companies.

Areva Resources Canada wants to build a uranium mine at its Kiggavik site, 85 kilometres west of Baker Lake in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region. The company’s proposal is currently in the regulatory process.

Baker Lake resident Joan Scottie raised environmental and wildlife-related concerns about uranium mining at Thursday's forum.
Baker Lake resident Joan Scottie raised environmental and wildlife-related concerns about uranium mining at Thursday's forum. (Patricia Bell/CBC)

Most of the eight panel members at Thursday’s forum assured the audience that uranium mining in Canada is not a dangerous industry and not much different from other types of mining.

“Uranium mining is a very strictly regulated industry, which has very high standards for safety and environmental protection,” said George Schneider of Golder Associates, which prepared a report for the Nunavut government.

But Baker Lake resident Joan Scottie, who has been fighting proposed uranium projects near her community for more than 20 years, said Inuit elders like herself believe caribou have already been scared away by a gold mine that recently opened in the area.

Having the Kiggavik uranium mine near Baker Lake could take an even bigger toll on caribou and other wildlife, Scottie said.

“It’s going to be worse on the south side of Baker Lake, because that’s a major migration route,” she said.

NTI blasted for owning shares

Some at Thursday’s forum berated Nunavut Tunngavik (NTI), the territory’s Inuit land-claim organization, for supporting uranium mining and having shares in two companies that are exploring for the heavy metal.

“I did not agree as a beneficiary, as a trust member, to own shares in a uranium company,” Iqaluit resident Susan Enuaraq, an Inuit land-claim beneficiary, said during the forum.

Keith Morrison, a senior adviser with Nunavut Tunngavik, told the audience that the organization received shares in exchange for issuing exploration agreements to those companies. No money was paid for those shares, he added.

Sandra Inutiq, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit, accused Nunavut Tunngavik of denying its pro-uranium stance and pretending to give out balanced information on the topic.

“The spirit and intent of the land-claim agreement is not being fulfilled,” Inutiq said. “We expected, as Inuit, that we would participate in decision-making.”

Group wants plebiscite

Nunavut Tunngavik president Cathy Towtongie recently said she wants to review her organization’s uranium mining policy, which since 2007 has supported uranium projects in Nunavut as long as they are environmentally and socially responsible.

Inutiq said her group wants a territory-wide plebiscite so Inuit land-claim beneficiaries can vote on whether Nunavut Tunngavik should support uranium mining.

“When the review process is complete and the documents resulting from the process have been prepared and released to the public, there should be a plebiscite for beneficiaries of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement on the question of whether or not to allow uranium mining in Nunavut,” Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit said in a statement Thursday.

“Beneficiaries should be given a free and democratic vote on this important question and that vote should settle the question once and for all.”

But Nunavut Conservative Senator Dennis Patterson said a plebiscite would not respect the land claim, particularly for Areva’s Kiggavik proposal.

“It would probably not be in good faith for NTI to change the rules for a project that has already begun,” Patterson said at the forum.

The Nunavut government is holding another public forum in Baker Lake on March 30 and 31. It will then go to Cambridge Bay on April 12-13.

Those who cannot attend the meetings in person can send in comments online, or by email, phone, fax or postal mail.

Iqaluit polar bear hunting quota unclear

CBC NewsJanuary 5, 2011
Original article here

There are quotas on how many polar bears can be hunted annually in Nunavut. Hunters in Iqaluit are looking for an increase to their quota, which is usually set at 23. (CBC)

Hunters in Iqaluit may not get to hunt more polar bears this year after all, as the group representing them has to deal with several levels of bureaucracy over the 2011 hunting quota.

Last week, the Amarok Hunters and Trappers Association in Iqaluit announced a big increase in the annual number of polar bears its members can hunt, from the usual quota of 23 bears to 41 in 2011.

The organization attributed the increase to “credits” it received from wildlife regulators for staying below the quota in past years.

But Amarok officials have since learned they do not yet have permission to use all those credits. Vice-chair David Alexander told CBC News he blames the confusion on miscommunication between many decision-making bodies.

The Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board has approved adding only 10 extra polar bears to Iqaluit’s annual hunt, bringing this year’s quota to 33.

Nunavut government officials said they support the Qikiqtaaluk board’s decision, but it’s now up to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board to give its final approval.

“We have to send out the letter to the right appropriate people, which is the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, as well as with the Nunavut government,” Alexander said Wednesday.

The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board said it has yet to receive an application from the Amarok Hunters and Trappers Association.

Iqaluit awarded bowhead whale hunt

December 8, 2010 CBC News

Inuit hunters in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, stand atop a 17-metre whale they harvested in August 2009. A similar hunt will take place next summer in Iqaluit, the territorial capital city. (Submitted by Sally and Tagak Curley)

Iqaluit will host one of Nunavut’s prized bowhead whale hunts next summer, giving Inuit hunters there a rare chance to harvest one of the giants of the sea.

Next summer will mark the first time in recent history that Iqaluit hunters will get to harvest one of the massive marine mammals, which can feed hundreds of Inuit in the area with meat and muktaaq.

“It’s very important. It’s been tradition for a long time. I always wanted to go bowhead whale hunt, if I got a chance,” said longtime Iqaluit hunter Solomon Awa, who has never hunted a mighty bowhead.

While whaling has long been a revered tradition in Inuit culture, which emphasizes the ability to live off the land, the bowhead whale was completely off-limits to hunting for decades. As a result, many modern Inuit in Nunavut have not had a chance to go after the large whales.

Licence required

But as the whale’s numbers started to rebound in the mid-1990s, hunters have been slowly getting their chance. Today, the bowhead whale remains the only animal for which Inuit communities need a licence to hunt.

Nunavut’s Inuit land-claims organization, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., has fought hard to open up the harvest.

The group convinced the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board to recommend raising the annual quota from two to three whales a year. That recommendation was approved by federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea last year.

“It’s very important for younger people to learn. I mean, they have enough distractions already in today’s modern world,” said Gabriel Nirlungayuk, Nunavut Tunngavik’s wildlife director.

“There’s nothing like it to go out on the land, and coming home with dinner.”

So every year, three Nunavut communities are awarded licences to hunt one bowhead whale each. This year, hunts took place in Kugaaruk, Pond Inlet and Repulse Bay, with whalers in the latter two communities having successful hunts.

No guarantees

While hunters like Awa say they are excited with the opportunity, they are quick to note there is no guarantee that they will actually take home a whale.

“Yes, it’s going to be really fun having a bowhead whale hunt here in Iqaluit; [it is] like we’re given a licence [for] opportunity. The question is, are we going to be successful?” Awa said.

“It’s all up to the environment. It’s not up to us. That’s how we always look at it.”

The Amarok Hunters and Trappers Organization in Iqaluit, which is organizing next summer’s hunt, has not yet set an exact date.

Vice-chairman David Alexander said he expects a lot of hunters will want to be in the whaling crew that will go out onto the water and pursue a bowhead.

“It won’t be an easy task as to who will be able to … to be out on this hunt. Hopefully we’ll be able to do the right selection process to get the right people,” Alexander said.

Hunting, butchering work

Awa said he hopes to be part of the whaling crew, but he added that he’ll be happy doing whatever he can.

“The hunting part is fun, but the butchering part is also a lot of work,” he said.

While whale hunting is tied to the Inuit people’s past, the technology hunters use today is modern — a grenade is speared into the giant animal in order to avoid a drawn-out death, Nirlungayuk said.

“You try and aim it for either the brain or the heart or the lungs or both. There’s a gap, about a five- to six-second gap, and then it explodes,” Nirlungayuk said.

Alexander said the chance to hunt a bowhead whale will make up for years in which the beluga whale harvest proved to be disappointing.

He added that the hunt will give Inuit hunters a chance to pass on traditional knowledge to young people, while hopefully feeding a lot of people.
Original article here.


Arctic bird poop loaded with environmental poisons, biologists say

By Jane George, Nunatsiaq News

Sediment cores like this one recovered from Eider Pond provide information about contaminants and even differences in seabird diets. Photograph by: Handout , John P. Smol, Queen's University

High Arctic seabirds carry a “cocktail” of contaminants, confirms new research, which analyzed the excrement of Arctic terns and eiders nesting on a small island north of Resolute Bay.

The seabirds’ cocktail is not a particularly healthy mix for the birds or the land they nest on, a team of biologists from the Canadian Wildlife Service and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., determined.

That’s because, in addition to pesticides, the seabirds are loaded with heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, which they pick up from the foods they eat.

“The birds are like a funnel and they’re concentrating these contaminants,” says John Smol, a biologist from Queen’s and one of the co-authors of a study on sea birds published in the recent edition of the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The seabirds then excrete contaminants from their diet of fish and shellfish around their nesting sites, creating what Smol calls a “boomerang effect,” where contaminants found in the ocean return to the land.

To study terns and eiders, biologists visited Tern Island, a small island 130 kilometres northwest of Cornwallis Island.

There, they found two ponds — one used by terns, the other by eiders.

To see what these birds were eating, they took sediments from each of the lake bottoms and then analyzed them.

While nearing “Tern Pond,” researchers had to be extra careful and watch their heads, because the terns attacked as soon as they approached the nesting area.

Around the terns’ nesting area, they found the birds’ excrement contained high concentrations of cadmium and mercury.

Fish-eating Arctic terns have the longest yearly migration of any bird species, with some covering about 80,000 kilometres annually, all the way down to Antarctica and back.

Sampling at “Eider Pond” showed the excrement of eiders, who feed mainly on mussels, clams and starfish, contains high levels of lead, manganese and aluminum, which they absorb near Greenland where they winter over.

In the past, Mark Mallory of the Canadian Wildlife Service in Iqaluit, also involved the Tern Island study, has looked at a colony of 20,000 fulmars at Cape Vera on Devon Island.

Cape Vera is another isolated place, considered to be far from pollution by industrial and agricultural contaminants such as mercury, PCBs and DDT.

But Mallory found this bird colony sits in the middle of another High Arctic hot spot of contamination.

There, fulmars nest on cliffs, which are ringed by freshwater ponds at the bottom, and their excrement flows down into these ponds below along with the contaminants.

Contaminant levels in sediments from 11 ponds from Cape Vera are up to 60 times higher than those found at nearby sites where there are no seabird populations.

Now biologists want to know more about how these contaminants travel through food chain, what the impact is, for example, when foxes eat the seabirds.

The good news is that the levels of metals don’t present any danger to Nunavummiut who eat tern eggs, eiders or eider eggs.

But there is some concern that contaminants could affect the overall health and numbers of terns, eiders and other seabirds in the Arctic.

The research findings also underline the need for more environmentally sound practices to cut down on contaminants in fish and shellfish that have ended up in the oceans.

“At the end of the day, it’s a sad tale, that the oceans are polluted no matter where you are — that’s the bottom line,” Mallory says.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Original article here

Iqaluit airport out of aviation gas

The Iqaluit airport has run out of aviation gasoline, which means some adventure pilots may have to change their flight plans.

Aviation gasoline, also known as av gas, is the type of fuel often used by private aircraft such as small propeller planes. Commercial airlines use jet fuel and therefore are not affected.

The aviation gasoline shortage does affect pilots of small planes that had planned to stop in Iqaluit en route to Europe.

“Iqaluit is certainly a place where we stop to refuel and enjoy the destination,” Thierry Pouille, president of Florida-based Air Journey, told CBC News on Wednesday.

Pouille, whose company guides pilots flying their own airplanes on extended trips to exotic locations, had planned to lead a group of seven planes to Iqaluit for an overnight refuelling stop as part of their trip to Iceland in June.

Instead, Pouille said they might have to stop in Kuujjuaq, Que., then on to Greenland.

“If there’s no av gas available then indeed, we have to look for plan B,” he said.

Aviation gas is shipped to Nunavut on the annual sealift resupply. Officials with the Nunavut government say there is minimal demand for the fuel and it’s available only at a handful of the territory’s airports.

But Uqsuq Corp., the aviation gas supplier in Iqaluit, says 2009 was an exceptional year for aviation gas sales.

In an email to CBC News, Uqsuq general manager Chris Coté said aerial survey operations based out of Iqaluit unexpectedly used up Uqsuq’s annual supply of aviation gas.

Cote said a fuel resupply is expected to arrive by ship in early to mid-July.