Baffinland lays off 586 contract employees, halts planned work

“There is no date for remobilization at this time”

People pack into Iqaluit’s Cadet Hall for the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s final public hearing of Baffinland’s phase two expansion proposal on Nov. 4, 2019. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. says it has laid off 586 contracted employees working at its Mary River mine.

Of those contractors, 96 are Inuit and 490 are non-Inuit, the company said in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

No direct Baffinland employees are affected, Baffinland said.

The layoffs come shortly after the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s decision on Nov. 6 to abruptly adjourn its public hearing on the company’s expansion plans.

“Due to the uncertainty of Phase 2 permit approvals, work associated with the 2019 Work Plan has been demobilized,” Salima Virani, a communications specialist for Baffinland, said in the email.

On Nov. 6, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk brought forward a motion to immediately suspend the final public hearing and defer its continuation for eight months to one year.

Throughout the hearing, Baffinland representatives went back and forth with intervenors on their planned construction of a 110-kilometre rail line north from the Mary River site to its Milne Inlet port.

The railway, and additional port infrastructure, would make it possible for the company to ramp up its production from the current 6 million tonnes of iron ore per year to 12 million tonnes.

The motion to adjourn was supported by all intervenors.

In its email, Baffinland said it is committed to the NIRB process and supports the recent delay of the hearing.

“It allows parties more time to formulate a coordinated response and continue to work towards the resolution of any outstanding issues” Virani wrote.

Although the company supports the delay, it has caused a major setback, halting all activity on its 2019 work plan.

“As such, certain contractors working on site have been notified that these works have been suspended. This is one month earlier than was previously planned for the Christmas break.”

Baffinland’s 2019 work plan includes preparation for its proposed phase two expansion.

“Activities outlined in this 2019 Work Plan represent planned works, improvements, infrastructure and equipment required to execute the currently approved phase of the project. Additionally, equipment and materials required for the Phase 2 expansion will be mobilized to the Mary River Project in 2018 in anticipation of the amended permits. For clarity, no earthworks or infrastructure construction associated with the Phase 2 expansion have been included in this 2019 Work Plan,” Baffinland’s 2019 work plan states.

A sealift of railway materials was transported by Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. to its Mary River iron mine site earlier this summer.

In an email to Nunatsiaq News, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association said it is very concerned about Inuit job losses at the mine.

“QIA is very concerned about Inuit employment and contracts at the Mary River Project. We know that every single job matters. Our team has reached out to Baffinland to get more information about possible layoffs or termination of contracts with Inuit firms. We are awaiting the company’s response,” QIA said. 

Joshua Arreak, manager of Pond Inlet’s Mittimatalik hunters and trappers organization, said he had not heard about layoffs at the mine.

“I have not been in contact with Baffinland. We have not heard anything to date,” Arreak said.

Terry Dobbin, general manager of the NWT-Nunavut Chamber of Mines, told Nunatsiaq News he hopes the project can continue to move forward.

“Our members are watching this unfold with concern and hoping there is a resolution to the issue as the project is very important to Nunavut. Baffinland is working hard with all parties to find an agreeable resolution to any outstanding issues,” Dobbin said. 

The company said there is currently no plan for when construction might resume.

“There is no date for remobilization at this time. The demobilizing effort is due to the uncertainty of Phase 2,” Virani said.

“We will keep working hard with all parties to find an agreeable path forward and remain committed to this. Baffinland will also continue to make Inuit recruitment and retention a priority, in accordance with the Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreement.”

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(50) Comments:

  1. Posted by General Mills on

    Almost 100 Inuit workers just had the Ho-Ho-Ho taken out of Christmas.

    • Posted by paul john on

      What about the other 486 Families ????? Santa does leave the north and head south

    • Posted by INUK on

      Thats sad and just before christmas.

    • Posted by Larry on

      The mine will not proceed if the railway isn’t built. Running OHTs from the Mary River to the port 24/7 is like the most inefficient thing I’ve ever seen. 6 MT a year is not feasible long term and never has been, period. Everyone knew this from the very beginning, including the Inuit

      To sink all this money into the project and at the last second force a 1 year delay seems awfully fishy. All the project materials are already up there, all the people were already hired. They know they have a ton of leverage now.

      It is just too bad people’s jobs got caught up in the middle.

      Just pay them what they want and get this project started.

  2. Posted by 489 non inuit on

    1700 more no inuit in all nunavut n we have 3000 homelessness yet we have learn to cope but ita not sustaining inuit. Rather then this let’s make this list longer

  3. Posted by Ms. Tupak on

    What a bad way to negotiate. I’m sure NTI can find 96 jobs for the Beneficiaries. It’s easier to stop a process when you havea secure job.

  4. Posted by Lifelong Nunavut Resident on

    Dear “You people” with the 6 figure salaries:

    Yes you, the jet setters that stay in nice hotel rooms and eat steak dinners. “You people” are so out of touch with the plight of the common folk which is 70% of Nunavut. We talk about food insecurity and a lack of business and job opportunities – you just killed 100’s of them. “You people” have job security, food on your tables, you drive big trucks and SUV’s. You are killing any future exploration and mining opportunities as you have just scared off thousands of investors that are already nervous about what is going on in Nunavut with our Inuit Orgs and IPG’s. Mineral exploration is down by over 50%? 60% and dropping as there is too much uncertainty – I thought that the NLCA was suppose to provide certainty with the promise of business and job opportunities??
    We are becoming a Territory of Liberals, left leaning people that think that their thoughts and ideas are more important than the plight and needs of the people that we are suppose to look out for. Hopelessness and despair is all around us and what a sad day it is when we cause so much pain and hardship for 96 Inuit. Include their families in this number and it is probably closer to 300 that will not have a good Christmas.

    “You People” – I would like to remind you that freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for families and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. Unfortunately, Nunavut has become a Territory of Barriers….

    I leave you with this verse:

    Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

    — Proverbs 31:8-9

    • Posted by Future Generations on

      The minerals aren’t going to disappear. This is a chance to grow our population and teach our children. The exploration companies could be Inuit owned. The CEO’S could be Inuk. We could be in 100% involved from prospecting to ore mining.
      If self-government is the ultimate goal, stop giving our resources away – save some for the future, and start to show Inuit, from a young age, that they can be in control.

      • Posted by Rick Vanderwoude on

        Well said!

        • Posted by Philly on

          Are you crazy.
          Inuit wanted this to happen in th first place so we on Baffin fu..g Island could realize the AGREEMent but seems like no one agrees. NGOs are Fuchs..

      • Posted by Lifelong Nunavut Resident on

        Mr. Future considerations: Pipe dreams don’t pay the bills and put food on the table. People need jobs and business opportunities today. Nunavut has 60-70% unemployment and it is growing every year. Do we wait to develop our resources until we have 90% unemployment? I am assuming you have a paycheck every 2 weeks and drive a big truck.

        • Posted by GetGoing on

          Pull up your boot straps and get out there making jobs happen. Lots of jobs need filling. People are coing from all over the world to do jobs that you won’t do. Stop waiting for someone else to hand it to you.

      • Posted by Present Generations create Future Generations on

        We need to pull people out of idleness and despair now! People need to be integrated into the labour market. The knowledge that one is providing for one’s self and family is of immediate benefit. These things are needed now to stop the slide into social pathologies. We can’t wait around for some sci-fi future where there are Inuit geologists and investment banks. We can’t even produce Inuktitut teachers!

        • Posted by Robo on

          Hey Present Generations, until you are willing to pay the bills of all those laid off Inuit mine workers, please shut-up

    • Posted by Nelson Cecil Nicholson on

      Well said

    • Posted by Grift for the Mill on

      There’s good money in keeping people poor and unemployed.

    • Posted by Stephen Faraday on

      This is very well written and thought out. I don’t really understand what exact pressure caused this close down and the lay offs. You seem to be pro mine and pro work. But i am thinking that is was a faction of the inuit opposed to the mine or the rail who caused the closure? Why did they do that?

  5. Posted by Hard Balls on

    This is pure hardball. First unapproved secret plans, which got uncovered. Then lay-offs that stink. The shareholders will also getting less back on their bank loans. Behave better.

  6. Posted by Harrol on

    Those 96 jobs that were lost to Inuit employees are going to effect many families. The others who lost jobs will eventually find work elsewhere

    Negotiating with multinationals like Baffinland is serous. NTI negotiators thru no fault of there own just don’t have the werethruall to deal with a situation like this.
    Today the people of Nunavut are learning a very hard lesson. Allowing a individual from Igloolik may have mulipulated board members to have made a short sighted decision. That has caused in some part to make this decision

  7. Posted by Whack on

    “Oh yeah! You wont give us what we want? Hold my beer. Let me make our Inuit employment numbers lower” very poor negotiation tactics. We are not a third world country that can just be pushed around. Let them go bankrupt. Get another company to take over the mine.

  8. Posted by Igunaq on

    Can Nunavuts new MP intervene perhaps?

  9. Posted by Colin on

    Given the head start on this property when Murray Watts saw its potential in the 1960s, there could and should have been near 100 percent Inuit employment by now at this mine. Inuit needed to be trained to become real geologists, mining engineers, marine biologists, assayers, accountants, airline pilots and so on.

    That’s what Inuit in bygone times expected for their children and grandchildren, people like Abe Okpik and Peter Pitseolak.

    So what are the qualifications of the people on this board to decide anything?

    It’s getting to be that that the only industry in too many Indigenous areas is preventing industry. Maybe the federal government will wake up eventually and act on the unrebuttable fact that there has to be a relationship between wealth-creating activity and paying for housing or anything else in Nunavut.

  10. Posted by iRoll on

    Some of these comments are very telling, aren’t they? Here are my favourite:
    “Can Nunavuts new MP intervene perhaps?” Oh yea, and do what? Over ride the bad decisions made by NTI? That’s really the only way out of this.
    This one is even better:
    “Let them go bankrupt. Get another company to take over the mine.”
    What a bright idea! I’m sure there is a countless supply of big mining companies willing to pour billions into a hostile and uncertain business environment. A made in Nunavut solution if ever there was one!

    • Posted by Chinese on

      China is waiting in the wings.

      • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

        They sure are, and if you think that Baffinland is bothersome to deal with, wait until you try to work with a Chinese company; a whole different level of opaque and unaccountable.

        • Posted by iRoll on

          Exactly, the idea that the Chinese will swoop in is magical thinking. In any case they would never enter a business environment like this unless they saw a clear path to exploitation. Concerns about ‘rights’ are a pesky nuisance to them.

  11. Posted by Just Saying on

    There are other mines in Nunavut that are looking for Inuit workers…

  12. Posted by QIA and HTO just cost Nunavut big time on

    to protect mosquitos and the imagination tuktoo. don’t even live in pond inlet area and if they do they get out of way when trains comes. cant even find any by clyderiver. hto and qia just wants to hear itself talk. all talk and no jobs. not even enough imaginery tuktoo for people to hunt. nothing up there only rock. now qia hto ruins christmas for 100 familes who just got layoff and back on welfare. stupid wannabe bigshot qia and hto. akeeagok has to go.

  13. Posted by Southern white guy on

    I work at the mine I have coached many “locals” and heard some of their hard ships yes let’s close the mine and hope someone buys it it will take years before it reopens and we will have the same issues let’s put 1000+ people out of work. Let’s let kids and familys starve and get iron dust for x mas. Give your head a shake people

  14. Posted by Northerner on

    NTI and QIA has been receiving millions in royalties from the mine. Use those funds to help the beneficiaries that are been laid off this only makes sense

  15. Posted by Bemused on

    I note a distinct lack of information from Baffinland on when that contract work for 2019 was going to be ending anyway.

    • Posted by Inevitable on

      I think the article mentioned it was a month earlier than normal.

  16. Posted by pond-er on

    Sit tight, its a tactic. Too much as been invested for a walk away. They preparred for a railway assuming they would get the go ahead (not a smart move), and was found out. This is what southerners do when they dont get their way. The docks are build, the gear is there. Sit tight and it will go back to what it was. Hopefully without inuit caving and giving the go-ahead for the railway.
    Yes, its called hardball, but BL has NO intention of walking away. Spend smart, save what you made, get your EI in the meantime.

    • Posted by Jake on

      I remember working @ Hope Bay when Newmont said the hell with dealing with KIA and walked away from their $ 1.8 billion investment at the time. Many Inuit worked there at the time. Same thing …. waiting and fighting for permits. If you don’t want progress and good paying jobs then stop bitching and whining and get it done

      • Posted by John on

        Well said, companies are not in business for hand outs. Of course they are in business to make money, that’s the whole purpose, to do this you need good reliable workers that will do their job and get paid well for putting in an honest day’s work. Get so fed up of hearing people winning.

  17. Posted by Terry on

    Just to notify that In February of this year,Baffinland hosted a risk assessment workshop for elders, hunters and trappers associations and members of the effected five North Baffin communities. Members of the communities had a first hand look at rail operations in another jurisdiction. Several sessions on health and safety for rail operations have taken place this year as well.

  18. Posted by Owl Notes on

    Get Nunavut NDP to help?
    Yes, NDP will probably be happy to close the mine, because iron ore for main end product needs tonnes of coal to make steel. NDP states they’ll end fossil fuels by 2030. Back to the dog sled. 
     If not closed, they’d be happy to tax, tax, tax until closed. Watch what happens when Liberals with NDP support (love taxes) and carbon tax, skip up to $100, $300 and more a tonne. Exploration and mines will drop like flies hatching in the fall. And over in Kivalliq, KIA president is promoting a power line from Manitoba, for what? Mines will be closed. No outrage over coming destructive carbon tax. Why??
    Another company buys it? China will fly all of their workers in, decreasing all wages (1st post national Canada desire). It’s China’s bargaining chip to accept Trudeau’s free trade deal with China. People better get waking up NTI, Inuit Orgs as with Liberal/NDP government, Nunavut is in for a rough hardship ride.

  19. Posted by Putuguk on

    No Inuit Org support. Delayed regulatory process. Southern environmental group hijacking their review. Then the company pumps the brakes on their construction. People call this a tactic and part of a negotiation. In reality this is prudent business management.

    No rational person spends money on something that people do not want, and the permission required for which is increasingly uncertain.

    If this a negotiation, someone please answer me this – we know what the company wants, but what are the Inuit Organizations leveraging for? For the sake of the lost employment of 100 of their members, what do they stand to gain? They already have the mineral royalty and IIBA agreements place. They got the Pond Inlet training center and whatnot. Those are done deals.

    They way these deals work, the more mining happens, the more benefits they get. This is achieved by expanding their operation, which the company is trying to do. On the face of it, Inuit gain nothing more by obstructing and withholding support at this stage of the process.

    And if they truly do not want the railway and the resultant increase in shipping, why bother with NIRB and public hearings at all? They are the landowners. Nothing happens without their say so on Inuit Owned Lands.

    What seems more likely is that the Inuit Orgs do not really know what they are doing and they are throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    • Posted by No Moniker on

      Well said, I wrote a comment earlier alluding to the distinct possibility that the current leadership of NTI is like a fish out of water when dealing substantive issues like this. Of course posing for group photos and pontificating about language and culture are much easier gruel. If only that was the extent of it!

    • Posted by Another alt-right nonsense alert on

      Putuguk is totally full of crap on this one, false alt-right misinformation and character assassination.
      The hearing was not “hi-jacked” by anybody. Oceans North and WWF were granted legal standing as intervenors and have every legal and moral right to be there, which means they have the right to ask questions, make submissions and put motions onto the floor.
      They have the legal right to do this under the Nunavut land claims agreement and under the NuPPA and under the rules of the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
      By the way it was the Pond Inlet hamlet, the Pond Inlet HTO, the Igloolik and Hall Beach reps who were asking most of the questions about the project, not the “southern environmental group.”
      Baffinland could not answer simple questions about the railway. It turns out that they still have not decided on the exact route of the railway.
      How can you have an environmental assessment on a railway if the company cannot state where the friggin’ railway is going to go?
      This is why the process needs more time. Baffinland needs more time to get its act together, because right now, that project is clearly not ready to proceed. The company cannot answer basic questions about their plans.
      This is why QIA and NTI stepped in. They are backing the Inuit of Pond Inlet who cannot get answers to simple questions.
      Check your facts buddy. This has nothing to do with a “southern environmental group.” This is about Pond Inlet.

      • Posted by Seriously? on

        Putuguk is alt right? Seriously?

        What kind of ridiculous ideologue are you? I could try to smear you as some kind of communist eco-utopian, but that kind of nastiness is not productive. Why don’t you direct your rage at Trudeau for failing to institute a guaranteed basic income system that would allow Nunavutmiut to stop wrestling with this kind of issue. In the absence of that kind of social safety net Nunavutmiut can’t throw away employment like this.

  20. Posted by all in on

    seriously… Baffinland is not a “large mining company” they are owned small minority shareholder Arcelor Mittal, rest is a FRACKING company and INVESTMENT companies. They have NO interest in Inuit, or local, or any other interests besides mining as fast and hard as they can, taking no prisoners. You can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day, it’s STILL A PIG.

    Second, these layoffs are all…that Baffinland took a RISK hiring to get going on their Phase 2 work. Without any approvals in place!! Just like they shipped $500M of equipment up this summer, telling NIRB all about it, but not getting any approval for that either. The system is broken to have allowed that, and now let everyone boo-hoo that NTI and others supporting a delay are causing these layoffs. None of their mine staff have been laid off yet.

    This is Baffinland’s poor planning and banking on approval when its project is so badly developed, and their environmental programs an ongoing joke for scientists and real biologists….it’s no wonder this even made it to a Hearing. Good on NIRB and good on people at that table to call a sham a sham.

  21. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    this sucks for those people laid off.

    they are listed as Contract Employees.

    now if you look back through previous reports, such as the recent report of Baffinland bringing in humongous Buildings crossing their fingers that Phase 2 would be approved.

    now what? they are not approved and now they are going to sit there and will there be any reprocussions for not having approval? easier to beg for forgiveness given our short shipping season than ask for permission right.

    how about the “Community Consultations”, how did those go? show a pretty 15 minute power point presentation patting yourself on the back , give them coffee and cookies and a couple of door prizes hoping they don’t ask any hard questions.

    at the end of the day, the Mine does not care about your Child’s or Wifes Birthday. they don’t care about your anniverssary. they don’t care if your Cousin met his untimely demise. they don’t care if your second uncle twice removed is sick. they don’t care if your kids pet hamster is going to kick the bucket (okay neither do I) but I digress.

    they only care if you punched in, did your two weeks, if you want overtime and get the minerals out as fast and efficient as possible.

  22. Posted by Busty petite on

    Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Good for baffinland. Enoufh is enough. They provided work and you got greedy. Let this be a lesson to all natives in canada.

    • Posted by Dumb on

      Who got greedy? There’s no mention of people looking for riches, except for the Eurocentric owners of Baffinland. You’re a hypocrite!

  23. Posted by Jamie on

    Baffinland tried to employ so many Inuit.
    They bend over backwards for them.
    It’s simple. A lot of the Inuits do not show up for work or they’re late everyday.
    There is a lot of good Inuits who show up on time and work very hard. But there is others who are just talking trash and don’t work.
    There is a lot of work. Get up and get at it instead of complaining about this mine.

  24. Posted by Tim C on

    I have worked in northern Saskatchewan, mostly on Uranium mine sites, for the last half of my construction career. Due to the fall in price, and demand, for Uranium, many people were laid off. The majority of the employees laid of were northern, First Nations people. It is because there was a hiring quota, required by the mines, to employ, roughly, 70% of their labor force from the northern, First Nation population. The Uranium mines, correct me if I’m wrong, are far more regulated that iron ore mines. However, it seems that there is a disconnect between Nunavut and Baffinland Mining. Why not collaborate on a plan to develop the rail system, which the mine wants, and negotiate other benefits that Baffinland can provide to the people of Nunavut?The idea is to keep people working and become a partner with the mining company, to a degree, so that both can benefit. This is what happened in northern Saskatchewan, before the downturn in Uranium. Before that, there were apprenticeship programs for northern First Nations people, through the Apprenticeship Trade Council, as well as opportunities from the mines themselves, for many different positions in administration and management. Perhaps these could be some of the benefits negotiated with Baffinland? The point is why be adversarial when you can accomplish more by working together>

  25. Posted by Bert on

    Let them eat cake

  26. Posted by MARC GATTO on

    This is looking like everywhere in Canada now where it is becoming impossible to get approval for any resource projects due to endless meetings and objections by professional objectors and complainers. Too bad for the people who just want a good job and a nice life.

  27. Posted by Common Sense on

    Well – a lot going on here but some of it is pretty straight forward. Baffinland was having contractors do work on projects in anticipation of getting approval for stage 2 and realized this was not a sure thing. (They imported millions of dollars in equipment with the same thing in mind). And those projects involved a lot of outdoor work that can’t be done in winter, so in a few weeks, those layoffs would have happened anyway – at least a very large number of them. So what’s happened is the result of poor judgment on Baffinland’s part (pushing the limits to make or save a $) and weather.

    And yes – the hearings were a mess Baffinland was submitting hundreds of pages of documents – none of them translated – just weeks before hearings were to start. There approach to community has been as amateurish as anything imaginable. They took forever to seriously consider any alternative to the railway routing they were set on. They didn’t listen to hunters and trappers and thoroughly passed them off. They don’t seem to have evidence to back up their claims. The Hamlet of Pond Inlet did a good job of pointing this out at the hearings. In fact, they claimed they didn’t even bother to get a research license for some of what they did. If you were sitting in the audience you could get a good day’s sleep. Questions that required a yes or no answer delivered rambling speeches that dealt with everything that had little to do with what was being asked for.

    So blaming environmental groups or QIA or Justin Trudeau or the full moon for what’s happened is delightfully naive to say the least. This is a company that needs to go back to school.

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