Nunavut board to finish with Mary River railway proposal by June 2019
Baffinland’s expansion would include railways to both Milne Inlet and Steensby Inlet, annual production of up to 30 million tonnes
The Nunavut Impact Review Board expects to complete its assessment of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed expansion of the Mary River iron mine by June next year, according to a schedule made public last Friday.
The review board has ruled the company’s environmental impact statement for the project conforms with guidelines issued in 2015. The plan would see a big expansion in ore production powered by a 110-kilometre railway running from Mary River northwards to Milne Inlet.
The railway to the north of Mary River would likely start operating by 2021 and accommodate a total fleet of five locomotives and 200 cars. Building it would require multiple quarries and at least 12.7 million cubic metres of rock-fill.
The plan, if approved, would increase the size of the iron ore shipments the company is permitted to send to markets in Europe through Milne Inlet from the current limit of six million tonnes a year to 12 million tonnes a year and, eventually, a whopping 30 million tonnes.
That’s because Baffinland’s phase-two expansion proposal also includes another railway-port proposal that the company received permission to build in its December 2012 project certificate.
That’s a 150-km railway running south to a proposed port at Steensby Inlet that would carry an additional 18 million tonnes a year to market on ships sailing through Foxe Basin and Davis Strait.
Together, those two railway routes, the first railways to be built in the Canadian Arctic, would increase production from Mary River to 30 million tonnes of iron ore per year.
The plans currently being assessed are considered an add-on to the final environmental impact statement that the company submitted years ago for the Mary River mine.
After the review board completes its work, it will make recommendations that may lead to changes to the terms and conditions set out in Baffinland’s project certificate for Mary River.
The review board has started the process by asking stakeholders for what it calls “information requests,” which Baffinland will be expected to respond to.
After that it’ll do a technical review and hold community information sessions in Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Arctic Bay, Resolute, Grise Fiord, Igloolik and Hall Beach.
The review board and the Nunavut Water Board will follow that with a three-day technical hearing to be held in Iqaluit from March 12 to March 15, 2019.
The review board’s assessment will culminate in a public hearing in Pond Inlet to be held from May 7 to May 11.
The board will send its final report to the minister by June 25—after which, the federal government will make a final decision on whether to allow the expansion.
The review board said that it has been involved in discussions with the federal government to make funding available to intervenors.
Documents related to the assessment are now available on the review board’s public registry at www.nirb.ca.
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