Rejection of Arctic mine expansion bid offers hope for narwhal population

Rejection of Arctic mine expansion bid offers hope for narwhal population

The expansion of an iron ore mine in the Arctic that would have increased shipping and led to the “complete extirpation of narwhal” from the region has been blocked.

After four years of consultations and deliberations, the Nunavut Impact Review Board rejected a request from Baffinland Iron Mines Corp asking to significantly increase mining on the northern tip of Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. The area is home to one of the world’s richest iron ore deposits, and the densest narwhal population in the world.

Narwhal in a place where there is no hunting. The whales are pushing under the ice to feed on cod. They come up in seal holes and rotten ice in order to catch a breath.

The news came as a surprise and a relief to conservationists and community members working to protect the narwhal population and the Inuit who rely on them for subsistence.

“I actually cried,” said Chris Debicki, a vice-president and counsel at the conservation organisation Oceans North. “The case against expansion at this moment was too strong and community opposition was too loud.”

The review board issued a statement on Friday saying that the Mary River mine expansion project carried potential for “significant and lasting negative effects on marine mammals, the marine environment, fish, caribou and other terrestrial wildlife, vegetation and freshwater”.

Lead Image: The area of the proposed mine expansion on the northern tip of Baffin Island is home to the world’s densest narwhal population. Photograph: David Fleetham/Alamy.

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