From Augustine Taqqaugaq’s new porch, you can see all of Igloolik laid out in a rough chronological order along the shore by date of development from south to north. Taqqaugaq lives in the newest, most northerly house. Looking out over the water, a two-toned canvas; a straight white line demarcates the boundary between the blinding white of the snow from the dull white of the sky. Taqqaugaq moved into government housing only this year after 14 years in a power-less shack on Igloolik point, a camp outside of town.
“I’m upset about those who are opposed to the mine,” he says. “I never had money, so that’s important. I want the mine to go ahead so people have money. For me, I’ll never work at the mine—I have no education—but probably through royalties I will see some money.
Of Taqqaugaq’s 13 children, three sons have already received training in the South to work in the mine. “They are just waiting for the mining to start,” he says.
He used to worry about the mine, but information sessions with Baffinland have allayed some of his fears. “I know for a fact the animals won’t disappear. If we don’t tamper with them, nothing will happen.”
“I used to live and work at Iqaluit and at the Fox DEW stations [in Hall Beach]. Machines were running all the time, and animals would be eating all around them. They can get used to these things.”
He also lived at Steensby Inlet for 16 years, right where Baffinland proposes to built the port. “I know the area really well,” he says. “I know there are a lot of shallow areas, and I’m worried about accidents. The ships may be grounded.”
“When I was up there, the current was very strong, and at very low tide, sometimes you’ll run into shallow areas. Because of that, we tried to move the port to another location. But Baffinland won’t move it.”
“But they say they’ll clean up the site when they’re finished. And I know there was a small ship sounding the shipping route, probably looking at the depth of the water. But I wonder if they really know what they’re looking at.”
Taqqaugaq knows what’s on the bottom of Steensby’s ocean floor: “Stuff that the walruses eat, stuff that the seals eat. I’m only worried the food will become contaminated and the animals will move away.”
Because of the area’s biodiversity, “the walruses there are much bigger than the walruses in the Foxe Basin Area.” He adds, “There are small islands all around the port side and in the fall, and there are many walruses on the land. Even in the summertime, there are walruses. The walrus eats mussels and that’s where the mussels are.”
The impact of the regular shipping on the Baffin walruses is a recurring concern, and some Iglulimmiut have pointed out that walruses are such heavy sleepers they might not notice they’re in the path of an oncoming ship until it’s too late.
But Taqqaugaq is skeptical. “I’m not worried they’ll get run over,” he says. “Even when walruses are in a deep sleep, they know what’s coming. They can still hear and they can feel it.”
“They’ll just move to the west side of the Inlet. When the shipping starts, they’ll just move away.”
“I know for a fact,” he goes on, “even if the Mary River project was stopped, there will be other mines. There is a big [iron ore] deposit in Roche Bay. It’s going to continue. But it’s not like the old days where miners could do what they pleased on this land. Now they are slowing the review process down and I don’t like that. In some ways it’s good, but in other ways it’s just stubbornness.”