Baffinland mum on layoff notice

Northern Affairs Minister Vandal’s rejection of mining company’s emergency order request sets stage for layoffs

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. has not said when or if it plans to file a layoff notice to the Nunavut Labour Standards Compliance Office. (File photo courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. has not said when or if it will notify Nunavut’s labour board that it plans to lay off more than 1,300 workers, now that federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal has rejected an emergency order the mining company said it needed to avoid layoffs.

Company spokesperson Peter Akman did not respond to Nunatsiaq News’s questions on Thursday about the status of the layoff notice. CEO Brian Penney also declined an interview request.

On Wednesday, Vandal sent a letter to Baffinland indicating he would not issue an emergency order to increase the iron ore shipping limit at the Mary River mine to six million tonnes from 4.2 million tonnes.

Baffinland said last week it needed that increase to avoid laying off workers after it reaches the lower limit.

In the legislative assembly Thursday, territorial Mines and Economic Development and Transportation Minister David Akeeagok said he had not been informed of any decision to lay off employees has been made yet.

Akeeagok was responding to questions from Tununiq MLA Karen Nutarak, whose riding includes Pond Inlet, the community closest to the Mary River mine.

“Baffinland’s announcement indicates that it may lay off over 1,300 employees … I am very concerned about the potential impact on my constituents,” Nutarak said, asking Akeeagok how the government will work with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to financially support workers who might be laid off.

If Baffinland decides to lay off employees, Akeeagok said he will work closely with Service Canada to issue employment insurance benefits, the territorial Department of Family Services to help laid-off employees with their career development and QIA if necessary, he said.

“It’s all at the moment hypothetical,” Akeeagok replied, but “if there is a firm date that layoffs are going to happen, our departments are preparing for it … as we never want to see any kind of employment loss to any of our communities.”

Akeeagok said he’s reviewing Vandal’s letter and that his department will be ready to be a part of the review process for Baffinland’s proposed shipping increase.

“I cannot say whether I support it or not because we need to have that due process,” he said.

In an interview with Nunatsiaq News, Akeeagok said he met with Baffinland representatives to discuss the emergency order around the same time the company issued its request to Vandal.

He said he has not yet met with QIA regarding the emergency order.

In his letter, Vandal said his staff would set up a meeting between Baffinland and QIA “to work out existing concerns so that this project remains viable into the foreseeable future.”

That meeting has not been scheduled yet, “but officials are in touch to begin work on logistics,” said Vandal spokesperson Ryan Cotter, who said the minister will not be present in the meetings because he is “a neutral decision-maker.”

Also on Thursday, Akman said that the company expects to have that meeting “as soon as possible and to rapidly address all issues for the benefit of all stakeholders.

“Our goal for these meetings is to reach a mutually beneficial agreement and to continue transporting [six] million tonnes of iron ore in 2022, as we have since 2018.”

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association could not respond to Nunatsiaq News before deadline.

With files from Emma Tranter

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(20) Comments:

  1. Posted by Game Over in Chicago on

    Smells like CCAA is lurking on the horizon.

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  2. Posted by Consistency on

    What will be interesting is that these lay offs could increase the percentage of Inuit and Nunavumiut that work at the mine. If BIM was serious about working with Nunavut and being a good company if layoffs are needed they would try keep the Nunavut workers and rebuild the trust that was lost with all the assumption they made that they would just get everything they wanted.

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    • Posted by Harley D on

      This is a classic “you can’t have your cake, and eat it too.”

      So what if the ratio of Inuit to southerners goes up? The absolute number of employed Inuit is going down, way down, and no amount of smug moralizing is going to change that.

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    • Posted by John K on

      BIM hasn’t lost my trust. And the people causing this never had my trust to lose.

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    • Posted by Crazyness on

      Lol I don’t see that happening. They will all be the first to go

  3. Posted by Taxpayer on

    What we are seeing here is a complete lack of governance and leadership. During the review process, the GN remained neutral on Phase 2, and failed to consider and recommend on the possibility (faced now) that the project would be rejected. Except of course for a few officials who had the bravery to suggest that in the 21st century, taking at least some Inuit off of SA and having them work industrial jobs is worth a try.
    Finally, at the 11th hour, they have come to the over ripe conclusion that they did not want people to lose jobs. Really? If so, perhaps you could made some effort over the past 3 years to tell NIRB and Minister Vandal that? The timidity is astounding. GN cannot even go so far to say whether they support the company shipping 6 million tons (that they somehow managed to do for years without the sky falling).
    Please with all due respect Minister, you do realize that shipping ore and having a mining job are linked, right? At some point, the GN has to take a stand. Right now, they are the “Terrified Government” of old. If the GN does not really support development and would rather everyone be on SA (the status quo) at least have the honesty to say so instead of pretending to care at this late hour. What is next GN? Will the GN now have the audacity to whine to Ottawa for more funds to deal with the soon to be newly unemployed, when GN could have clearly done something to avoid the situation?
    Stand up for something, or say nothing GN. This nebulous middle ground you are trying to occupy makes you look foolish. We have governments to make public decisions. That is what they are actually for. Not simply there to avoid harsh words from either the NIMBYs or Developers.
    It is simply stunning to think this is the same government that will soon be responsible for land and water in Nunavut, post Devolution.

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    • Posted by Repetition on

      It is not the GN’s responsibility to recommend a Plan B to anyone. BIM screwed up, again.

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      • Posted by Taxpayer on

        The Government of Nunavut, through the Nunavut Act, is made responsible for a host of property and civil matters that are related to this news. Additionally, the GN has taken on responsibilities for economic development by territorial statue. More fundamentally, unlike Minister Vandal and the NIRB Board, our GN Ministers are elected by us Nunavummuik to represent us. As such, I think there is plenty that they can say about such a major issue facing the territory in the public interest. Including laying whatever blame might be necessary for the current situation. If a forestry project went sideways in BC, or a factory closed in Ontario, or an ag project failed in Saskatchewan, the public would expect no less of a Provincial Premier or Minister in those places. Expressing the overall public expectation is their job. Leaving everything to the NIRB to be dealt with at a technical level is a cop out.

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        • Posted by Binky the Doormat on

          I tend to agree that the Premier should be more visible and involved in public discussion about this. But I’m from a larger province and maybe there are different dynamics here.

          Relationships surely matter inside the tiny spheres of power in Nunavut. Is it necessary to risk public disagreement with QIA, or NTI?

          But whatever the decision is, it needs to be made in Nunavut. It needs to be asserted from Nunavut and not Ottawa, and that should be clear to everyone when it is made.

          I suspect it might be clear to Vandal at this point. And if not, we can let him know.

          The point is Nunavut needs to decide its own future. How can we develop self-confidence if we allow Ottawa to make a choice like this for us?

          I can’t think of anymore more suitable to lead in that role than a Premier.

        • Posted by Silly on

          They didnt leave it to NIRB, it was BIMs responsibility to file the application. They mismanaged and now want a bailout “or else”

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  4. Posted by Not Confused on

    Baffinland always uses the media when they know things will not go their way, trying to show their puppy eyes for everybody so gullible people will think the world is against the mine. The way things have unfolded to this point are no brainer, baffinland failed miserably with their environmental impact statements, gambling to purchase and ship p2 materials to the site, contracting and building p2 materials, making everyone think that there will be more jobs when in fact if the railroads were built that there would be less drivers etc. Baffinland can not blame anyone but themselves the way things have unfolded, they can not say that it is peoples fault for such failure, as they were told from the beginning that they should be working with the impacted communities to resolve problems, not to create problems and expect to blame the communities for all their mistakes

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    • Posted by A Huge Gamble? on

      1. Baffinland has no choice but to pursue the route to Milne Inlet. They CAN NOT raise the funds to build Steensby, no one can. If they can’t do Milne then there is a major problem. And to think some company with billions of dollars is going to come in and start building Steensby is ludicrous. Who? Glencore? Vale? Rio? No chance. So what you call a gamble, was exactly that – there is no change this mine survives unless Milne is approved and soon, and so they did their best to put the good foot forward, making the extra investment in the hopes of getting this work underway. So now they are being blamed for trying to grow? This is how you treat a company trying to invest and grow in Nunavut? By saying it’s their fault they decided to invest in Nunavut and employ hundreds of people and offer to build a training centre and fly people all over the place for training? Really?

      2. Baffinland is maybe using the media as you say….but as far as I can tell is they are transparently telling their employees and stakeholders what the situation is and the possible impacts. Given the jobs at stake and the 23% of Nunavut’s GDP at stake, the Media is taking interest, as they should.

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      • Posted by Anguttialook on

        Well the silent leadership best come up with a solution if not ling term ramifications for kitimeot region…is the corridor of hope( where the deluded KiA personal want a port for mines…richest area for minerals in all of nunavut) about to turn into corridor of dope..pipedream..where ore will have to be shipped out…Bathurst inlet is pristine area…yet ..misguided Nti leader…only about 17% voted…gave kia $7million for a road to nowhere…why isn’t aluki and company investing in housing….lets have another retreat in cambay to make another priority list…but ..butt…these were priority issues before nunavut was formed…why is there so much incompetence with gn….I am about to file a lawsuit against motor vehicle nu..well the former director is go went gone.nu illegal aid lawyer colluded yet all it took was one email to minister of economic development and transportation by a layman…people know your rights..know the rules..for they apply on both sides of the counter…if you take the gn on…be prepared to be stonewalled by the incompetence that the gn….BIM if not feasible will leave…and others will have to think long and hard ..before investing….leaders got no spine…nu is the biggest waste of tax payers money in canada…mostly for Inuit elite…why Greenland only needs $700m…for 50k people….yet nu squaders over $2 billion for only 36k people….gross mismanagement experts in inefficiency the spineless ones that run this excrement show of waste

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      • Posted by Crazyness on

        They could flip the bill for stensby if they stopped giving handouts to ppl for nothing

  5. Posted by Truestory on

    Dang. Tired of being “Dictated” by highly paid idiots way up about my job.

  6. Posted by blackmail on

    How come Baffinland uses blackmailing tactics through the media? They should of planned it better. But no, because they are giving jobs and benefits they think they are entitled to everything.

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