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Town stands against coal company
Public consultation meeting follows letter of opposition

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Monday, July 22, 2013

Grise Fiord town officials remain steadfast in their opposition to coal exploration plans on Ellesmere Island following a public consultation meeting with Canada Coal on July 10.

NNSL photo/graphic

This map shows where coal deposits exist on Ellesmere Island. Canada Coal wants to begin exploration in the area next year. - photo courtesy of Canada Coal

The meeting was an opportunity for company representatives to address concerns in regards to exploration on the Fosheim Peninsula, an area east of Eureka, but it failed to sway residents who showed up to the meeting.

Marty Kuluguqtuq, assistant senior administrative officer in Grise Fiord and secretary-treasurer of the hunters and trappers organization (HTO), said the community is adamant in opposing any exploration of the surrounding hunting grounds.

"It's not a comfortable feeling at the moment in town," he said.

"They talked about their plans and how they want to work alongside the community to deal with our concerns but it seems like they will be forging ahead with their plans anyway. We meet with these people with trepidation and anxiety as we have a number of environmental concerns."

A wide variety of wildlife is known to survive off the land in the region including musk oxen, Peary caribou, Arctic wolves, Arctic foxes, lemmings and ptarmigan.

The Peary caribou population has declined significantly in the last 50 years and is listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act, according to the NWT Species at Risk website.

Kuluguqtuq said there are also concerns with noise and water pollution.

"Until those issues are resolved, any exploration of coal should be postponed," he said.

Braam Jonker, president and chief executive officer of Canada Coal, said he felt the meeting was positive and agreed with Mayor Liza Ningiuk to return to the community in September or October for further discussions.

"Our understanding is that the only remaining concern is with local wildlife and we expect that," Jonker said.

"We fully agree that concerns need to be addressed and managed. The focus of our followup meeting will be to sit down with the mayor and the representatives of local agencies to figure out how to manage these concerns."

Mapping and sampling of Fosheim Peninsula were carried out last year and drilling is scheduled to begin next year, he added.

"There are certain delays because of the permitting process so things are taking a bit longer than originally anticipated," Jonker said.

"We have to follow the procedures and that's what we're doing."

Canada Coal owns 75 exploration licences on Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg islands.

"Inferred coal resources within 200 metres of the surface were estimated to be in the order of 21,000 million tonnes," referring to the Fosheim Peninsula, stated Canada Coal on its website.

Companies such as Gulf, Petro-Canada and Utah conducted coal exploration in the peninsula in the early 1980s and Canada Coal acquired several coal licences in 2010. Today, the Fosheim Peninsula includes 100 coal seams, or deposits.

In February this year, the hamlet council, HTO and Community Lands and Resource Committee penned a strongly worded letter to the Mining Recorder Officer in Iqaluit, in which they listed several negative implications of exploration in their backyard.

The public consultation meeting was the latest in a series that began in October 2011 and continued in June 2012. Both times, the message was clear: resource exploration would not be allowed or tolerated in the area.

"The community of Grise Fiord is not against economic development and growth, but the negative impacts to the environment in this area far outweigh the benefits," the Feb. 14 letter stated.

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