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Arctic: THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES


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    Biden signals plans to halt oil activity in Arctic refuge 
    On Wednesday, January 20, after Biden had been in office for less than 24 hours, the new administration announced a plan for a moratorium on oil and gas development in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A priority, after 4 years of a completely opposite policy, where sales of exploration leases in the region have increased. This announcement comes the day after the public announcement, on the last day of Trump, of the sale of leases on nearly 1,770 square kilometres of land in Alaska. However, the moratorium as announced by Biden will only be temporary. It provides for the conduct of a new environmental assessment in order to evaluate the impacts of possible oil and gas drilling in the refuge on flora and fauna. This decision, based on scientific facts, has many socio-economic stakes. There is a great debate between those who argue that oil is the basis of the Alaskan economy and the Gwich'in, who recall their dependence on the environment for their livelihood. What seems certain is that a permanent ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not for tomorrow, but the rush to sell the leases as quickly as possible will be slowed (CBC).

    Critics of Nunavut mine expansion question Baffinland’s regard for Inuit traditional knowledge
    Baffinland Iron Mines’ proposed Mary River mine expansion was met with criticism regarding the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability and integration of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, or traditional knowledge, during a review board hearing last week. The company’s CEO, Brian Penney, has asserted that his company has addressed community concerns about the mine’s phase two expansion. However, questions about whether environmental concerns will be addressed by Baffinland have persisted since November 2019, when the hearings were postponed after Nunavut Tunngavik president Aluki Kotierk brought forward a motion to postpone them due to the great number of pending questions in respect to the proposal. Yet Baffinland has held meetings with affected communities and revised its proposal. For example, a decision was made to limit vessels operating in the area to four, rather than 10, months a year, to help avoid disturbing marine life. Nevertheless, last week’s hearing revealed that a significant divide between the company and community still exists. Hearings will continue until February 6. The review board will then send a report to federal Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal recommending whether the project should go ahead (NN).

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