Nunavut hamlet backs Baffinland’s new shipping plans

But Pond Inlet wants to see the review move forward without delay


A view of  Milne Inlet, the shipping port connected to Baffinland's Mary River iron mine by a 100 kilometre tote road. (FILE PHOTO)

A view of Milne Inlet, the shipping port connected to Baffinland’s Mary River iron mine by a 100 kilometre tote road. (FILE PHOTO)

The Hamlet of Pond Inlet says it backs Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s revised shipping plan for its nearby iron mine at Mary River and Pond Inlet wants to see the review process move forward without delay.

The outgoing hamlet mayor, Charlie Inuarak, met with Baffinland officials Dec. 5, when the mining company explained its newest plans to increase open-water shipping out of Milne Inlet with larger ships, while abandoning a previous plan for ice-breaking year-round—including during the region’s busy spring hunt.

Baffinland submitted revised plans to the NIRB earlier this year to construct a railway from the mine site to Milne Inlet port, where the company would build a second and larger dock.

The hamlet “fully supports’ that plan, Inuarak wrote in a letter to the NIRB, made public Dec. 15. (Joshua Katsak was elected as Pond Inlet’s new mayor Dec. 12.)

But Pond Inlet, located 150 kilometres from the mine site, remains at the receiving end of many of the mine’s environmental, economic and social spin-offs, he said, which makes the community a crucial part of the discussion on how the project is to move forward.

Inuarak urged the NIRB to begin the assessment process as soon as possible.

“This will allow us to have the opportunity to give our input during these evaluations and this can only happen if the process begins,” Inuarak wrote.

“We strongly recommend that you do not make Baffinland start over in the review process. Any delay or restart would be detrimental to [the] project and to our community.”

Baffinland has to make changes to its operation to meet its maximum shipping target of 12 million tonnes of iron ore, as is proposed in its Phase 2 proposal, with the goal of making the project profitable again.

To do that, Baffinland is proposing to fill more ships through the open-water season. The company would transport 176 railway cars and five diesel locomotives north and build a railroad line from the mine site to the Milne Inlet port, roughly following the same path as the current tote road used for ore trucks.

Truck traffic along the frozen tote road will continue this winter, the company has said, as ore is stockpiled and equipment serviced and maintained for next summer’s shipping season.

Now it’s up to NIRB to decide the scope of the review; the review board says it must determine if the recent changes to the proposal constitute a significant change, which would require an updated proposal be submitted to the Nunavut Planning Commission for consideration.

If the NIRB determines those changes aren’t significant, the project can proceed as part of NIRB’s current assessment.

The review board says it will provide an update on the process before the end of the year.

World Wildlife Fund-Canada says increased volume of shipping through the open-season should prompt the NIRB to conduct a full environmental review on the proposal.

The wildlife organization is calling for a “comprehensive monitoring network,” to track any impacts from the Baffinland project, as well as ice-thickness cutoffs for shipment by sea.

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