Nunavut regulator hands Mary River an unflattering report card
NIRB says it’s worried about Baffinland’s “deteriorating relationship” with QIA
Following an inspection done earlier this year at the Mary River iron mine, the Nunavut Impact Review Board has handed the Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. an unflattering report card for 2015-16 that cites “poor management practices” that need immediate attention.
And the review board says its members are getting worried about how Baffinland is complying with its project certificate and its relationship with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
“[A]t its most recent meeting in October 2016, the Board’s membership expressed growing concern for the various enforcement actions that were required to be taken by regulators for the Project during the past year, as well as the well-publicized deteriorating relationship between the Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. (Baffinland or the Proponent) and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association regarding implementation of the Inuit Impacts and Benefits Agreement for the Project…,” NIRB said in the report.
They also said the board is worried about “the number of environmental issues on site.”
But at the same time, the NIRB found that during the period covered by the monitoring report, Baffinland “demonstrated compliance with most of the reporting requirements in accordance with the Project Certificate” and they listed 34 reports submitted by the company.
Despite that, the review board said the company has not submitted important pieces of environmental information and they criticized the company for the untidy state of its camp at Mary River, especially the large numbers of old tires and other waste materials.
NIRB formed its conclusions based on a site visit in the fall of 2016, and other monitoring reports submitted by entities such as the QIA and various government departments.
Some of the missing environmental information includes the following:
• sea level and storm surge data at the Milne Inlet port, where the company appears unable to retrieve a gauge;
• an explanation for why the company no longer monitors sulphur dioxide emissions, which earlier had been recorded at low levels;
• information on the stability of the terrain along the tote road between Mary River and Milne Inlet;
• missing quarry management plans for two quarries;
• missing information on why some terrestrial monitoring programs have ceased such as the monitoring of vegetation, base metals in the soil and invasive plant species;
• information on the discharge of ballast water into Milne Inlet from ore carriers;
• information on whether the company provided spill response equipment to communities and how the company involved the Coast Guard in required annual spill response training; and,
• information on the management of dust.
For some of the recommendations that seek more information, the NIRB asks Baffinland to provide it within 45 days.
The NIRB inspection report also found inadequate fencing around the Mary River landfill site and uncontrolled seepage from waste rock areas.
And they found another problem that is not covered by any of the terms and conditions in Baffinland’s project certificate: many piles of used tires, “inconsistently stockpiled at different locations.”
“During the 2016 site visit, it became evident that used tires have become a significant waste stream across the project sites, particularly around the mine site and Milne Port,” the report said.
On that issue, the NIRB said Baffinland is looking at options for waste tire storage and will present its ideas to the review board.
The NIRB report also said the site is messy.
“The Monitoring Officer observed poor aesthetic quality of the project area during the 2016 site visit, and noted the need for general cleanup of areas with unused materials, steel pipes, tires, metals, salt bags, wooden materials, synthetic materials, drums particularly around contractor laydown areas, the incinerator, and other locations,” the NIRB said.
Though this does not pose an immediate environmental threat, the review board said it suggests “poor waste management practices which are not reflective of industry best standards employed at other operating mines in the Territory.”
Baffinland is still operating the Mary River mine under its early revenue phase, within which the company is allowed to ship up to about 3.5 million tonnes of ore annually from the mine through a port at Milne Inlet.
The company is still waiting for regulators to figure out how to handle its Phase 2 proposal, under which the company proposes shipping up to 12 million tonnes of ore to Milne Inlet with ships moving in and out of the port for about 10 months each year.
Right now the biggest hold-up is that the NIRB is trying to determine if this new proposal—which might include a railway to Milne Inlet—continues to be exempted from the North Baffin Regional Land Use Plan.
At the same time, an arbitration panel has yet to rule on a dispute in which the QIA claims Baffinland still owes them about $6.5 million in royalty payments that were supposed to have been paid in advance of production.
161104 08MN053 Annual Monitoring Report OT5E by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd