Baffinland expansion meetings cancelled again

Second attempt to hold meetings via teleconference rejected by intervenors

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed expansion includes building a railway between Milne Inlet (shown here) and the Mary River iron mine to ship expanded quantities of high-grade iron ore to its customers. The now-cancelled technical meetings were part of the process to approve the expansion. (File photo)

By Meagan Deuling
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Nunavut Impact Review Board decided on Friday, April 24, that it would not hold technical meetings via teleconference starting this week.

The technical meetings were proposed by Baffinland Iron Mines to make up for ones scheduled to be held in Iqaluit in March that were cancelled on March 12, due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Along with the technical meetings, community roundtables and a pre-hearing conference were cancelled at that time.

Before cancelling these events, the NIRB attempted to re-format them as virtual meetings to be held via teleconference.

However, this decision provoked criticism from intervenors who said they weren’t involved in the decision to re-format the meetings, and that it wouldn’t be logistically possible for intervenors in small, remote communities to participate effectively in virtual meetings.

The NIRB responded in a letter posted to the board’s registry on March 17, putting the meetings on hold, and noting that territory-wide closures of offices, schools and daycares “could impact the ability of parties to participate fully in scheduled teleconferences.”

“Once these circumstances change or organizations have had sufficient time to adjust their operations to current conditions, the Board will revisit its guidance regarding next steps,” it wrote in the letter.

On April 13 Baffinland Iron Mines sent out a letter, saying that it was imperative to keep moving forward on the assessment of its proposed stage two expansion, which would include the meetings and hearings that had been scheduled to take place in March.

“As four weeks have since elapsed since the meetings and organizations have had some time to adjust to working remotely and adjusting their operations, Baffinland is writing to request that the NIRB issue further direction,” the letter said.

Baffinland requested that the meetings be complete by April 30. The mining company argued in its letter that technical meetings could be held by teleconference, and that according to the NIRB’s rules, community roundtables and a pre-conference hearing weren’t necessary.

The NIRB sent out a letter the following day to intervenors in the mine’s proposed expansion, asking them to submit input on holding the technical meetings via teleconference.

The board said in its letter that it wasn’t realistic to think the meetings could be wrapped up by the end of April.

It then scheduled virtual technical meetings to be held over the phone from April 28 to May 8.

The NIRB also said in that letter that it was assessing alternatives to the community roundtable and pre-conference hearing.

It wrote that after the technical meetings were complete, it would provide further guidance on how the community roundtable and pre-conference hearing would be modified to reflect the reality of the constraints caused by the pandemic.

The NIRB then sent out a letter on Friday, April 24, saying that after reading submissions from 15 intervenors, including Baffinland, it decided to cancel the technical meetings that it had just scheduled.

“With significant opposition and limits on the participation of all parties, the Board has concluded that these meetings cannot proceed as proposed,” the NIRB wrote in its letter.

The NIRB wrote that when travel restrictions are lifted, and when it’s possible for Nunavummiut to return to work and have public gatherings, it will decide when and how to allow the assessment of Baffinland’s proposed expansion go ahead.

Before it decides what the continued assessment will look like, “the Board will solicit comment from prospective participants to ensure their views are fully considered before charting a path forward for this assessment,” according to the letter.

Share This Story

(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Not Surprised on

    I’m not surprised at all by this. While I can’t fault NIRB for trying to move its review forward it’s clear that communities don’t support the Phase 2 expansion that Baffinland has been trying to force on them. If there was any good will between communities and Baffinland I’m sure people would find a way to make teleconferences work given the coronavirus limitations. The fault for this rests with Baffinland only… make no mistake, communities are desperate for good projects, work and opportunities but not at the expense of their lands and marine areas.

    • Posted by Randolph O’Keefe on

      Tell that to the local workers on site. I bet they have no problems with how the company operates. Mining iron ore that pure doesn’t require a lot of processing on site before shipping. There’s a lot of outside influences in these matters. Laeyers really like prolonging these meetings. The nwt FN’S have been dealing with land claims for over 2o years. They don’t want to resolve anything. They would rather collect a check from both sides. Tax payer funded. They don’t give a shit about the environment or communities.

  2. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    “On April 13 Baffinland Iron Mines sent out a letter, saying that it was imperative to keep moving forward on the assessment of its proposed stage two expansion, which would include the meetings and hearings that had been scheduled to take place in March.”
    Dear Baffinland CEO and senior management – What part of GLOBAL PANDEMIC do you not understand?

  3. Posted by Millie on

    Delay – a classic procedural tactic by parties holding a weak position. Technical support for teleconference is easily adequate at all four Nunavut hamlets engaged in this contest but stalling hearings past mid-May almost guarantees another full year of work stoppage (due to seasonal transport constraints). Push forward, hear the arguments in a timely fashion, weigh the merits and failings. and determine what to do with this project.

    • Posted by We are not in normal times on

      How are the affected communities to prepare for the meetings if they can not assemble because the government has made it illegal to do so. If the communities can not prepare for said meetings, then what is the point of them?

  4. Posted by TerryD on

    It was my understanding that through this delayed assessment process, Baffinland had demonstrated a strong commitment to working with Nunavummiut and was developing the Mary River Project in a responsible and sustainable fashion. I think that any further delays in this assessment process will completely undermine the viability of this project. The intervenors is playing with fire here, Do you think that Mary River is the only place on earth with high quality iron ire? What is the price of iron ore drops like it did in 2015, If ArcelorMittal ( Was the largest steel producer in he world ) walks away from this project, do you think other companies will be in line to do business in one of the harsh climate on earth with no infrastructure? I don’t think so
    The benefits to Nunavummiut from this project through increased career and training opportunities, well-paying jobs and positive lasting economic contributions to Nunavut and the North Baffin communities could have be multi-generational.
    Maybe Oceans North and WWF will be there to compensate for those high paying jobs now lost, and food on the table. I think not, they’ll be off on some other save the planet mission, while Nunavummiut will be left holding the bag, think about that!!

    • Posted by Get real Terry on

      The local employment at the mine is less then 20 percent and the local hunters have pleaded to change the proposed railway route of phase 2. The local residents will have to live with the decisions and deserve to have an active role in the hearing. The iron ore ain’t going to run away, so perhaps a more considerate company will come around in the future who will listen to local knowledge and develop the ore more responsibility.

      • Posted by Jimmy on

        The locals don’t want to work. Sorry to say that but I work here and baffinland holds jobs fairs and does everything for the locals. They simply don’t want to show up and it’s not in there culture to work 12 hrs a day.

        Baffinland sent every local home ( over 200) with pay since the end of March. But no body talks about that

        You guys complain about caribou Etc. But the census report in 1990 was over 100k of caribou on this island.
        Now it’s less then 3000 due to over hunting.
        Greed will only get you so far.

        • Posted by Warren Bernauer on

          “They simply don’t want to show up and it’s not in there culture to work 12 hrs a day.”

          That statement might is one of the most ignorant comment I’ve read on this website. You clearly have no idea how hard Inuit work out at hunting camps. Its very much in the Inuit culture to work very, very hard.

          There are social problems in the North today, which have complex roots in colonialism and social trauma. But to suggest Inuit culture is somehow at fault is ignorant and ethnocentric. Get a grip!

        • Posted by Speaking of greed on

          Hunters kindly share with family and those in need on what they catch, it is called generosity. I seem to recall Nunavut led the country in mineral prospecting in the country in the early 2000s, so trying to attribute this to overhunting is not the sole source, The hunting of caribou has been strictly enforced for a number of years while habitat destruction of the caribou by mining activity remains unregulated. Perhaps the locals who you call lazy, care more about the land and do not wish to part take in its destruction with the mine?

Comments are closed.