Baffinland performs damage control, clarifies expansion plan

Iron ore miner proposes multiple community visits early this year

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s port at Milne Inlet. The company has just filed an updated information package aimed at clearing up various questions that emerged at last November’s public hearing. (File photo)

By Jim Bell

In a gesture aimed at meeting a recent Nunavut Impact Review Board request, Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. has filed a 110-page update that’s also clearly intended to rescue its expansion plan from the tangled muddle of questions that emerged at last November’s public hearing.

“The enclosed materials provide a definitive understanding of the Phase 2 Proposal and the status of issue resolution achieved between the Company and Interveners current to the date of this submission,” the company said in a letter to the review board earlier this week, on Jan. 7.

At the same time, it has proposed a meeting of North Baffin community representatives, to be held in Igloolik from Jan. 13 to Jan. 16.

After that, the company proposes a round of community engagement visits to Clyde River, Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Hall Beach and Arctic Bay, plus workshops at various locations with representatives from all communities .

It proposes to do most of those engagement activities between Jan. 19 and Feb. 21.

“Baffinland continues to place the highest regard in our desire to develop a sustained positive relationship with your respective communities and believes that with your help we can achieve that,” Megan Lord-Hoyle, Baffinland’s vice-president of sustainable development, said in a letter to mayors of the five affected communities last December.

But that’s not all. After a pre-hearing conference in Iqaluit that the Nunavut Impact Review Board has scheduled for March 25, Baffinland proposes even more community visits.

It would squeeze those in between March 25 and the start date for resumption of the public hearing that adjourned abruptly last Nov. 6.

At the same time, Baffinland’s updated information package attempts to resolve disputes and clear up numerous questions related to its proposed railway, marine shipping and iron ore production plans.

That includes clarifying how much ore it proposes to extract, and from which part of the project:

• For transport by rail along the 110-kilometre “North Railway,” from Mary River to a port at Milne Inlet: 12 million tonnes per year, up from the current 4.2 million tonnes per year.

It’s that North Railway, most of which would run next to the existing tote road, that’s at the heart of its current phase-two expansion proposal.

• For transport by rail along the future “South Railway,” from Mary River to a port at Steensby Inlet: 18 million tonnes per year.

This was the original plan that Baffinland received federal government permission for in 2012—before it opted to start production using a truck route to Milne Inlet instead.

• Total eventual ore production, if the phase-two plan is approved: 30 million tonnes per year.

Baffinland clarifies railway plans

As for the railway, Baffinland has now clarified its preferred route, which the company revealed to intervenors at last November’s public hearing.

It’s marked on the maps as “Route 3.” Like the other two proposed routes, it mostly follows the existing tote road.

But at a spot called “kilometre 67 hill,” it veers off to the south and takes a big detour before heading back to hug the tote road.

That deviation is to avoid hills that are too steep for trains to climb.

And on the deviation alignment, the company says it’ll continue to meet with communities to refine the exact route.

The broken line marked in green shows Baffinland’s preferred route for its railway between Milne Inlet and Mary River. The exact route is still subject to discussions with community members in Pond Inlet. Click to enlarge. (Baffinland image)

The company also apologized for an English-Inuktitut translation error, in which the English term “deviation” was translated into Inuktitut terminology in a way that suggested development of the route was delayed or postponed.

Baffinland also says the railway embankment for the North Railway will have “gentler slopes” than the design of the future South Railway, to make it easier for caribou to get across them.

The company also plans at least 30 level crossings and four culverts to allow people and caribou to get from one side of the railway to the other.

Again, those plans aren’t final.

“The final number and location of crossings is anticipated to be informed by Inuit during the construction of the railway,” Baffinland said.

Shipping route, shipping season clarified

In another section of the update, Baffinland clarified its marine shipping plans.

The company said it will not ship ore through the Northwest Passage or through Navy Board Inlet around Bylot Island.

The only shipping route it will use for the phase-two expansion is through Milne Inlet and Eclipse Sound—the same route the company uses now.

As for the length of the shipping season, Baffinland proposes that it run from July to Nov. 15 each year.

But that’s not carved in stone, and Baffinland proposes the actual shipping season should be subject to the following conditions:

• The Mittimatalik hunters and trappers organization must confirm in writing that the floe edge is no longer being actively used by community members.

• Land-fast ice must be broken along the entire shipping corridor.

• Vessels must obtain permission from NORDREG (a federal government agency) to navigate in prevailing ice conditions.

• No icebreaking will occur during sensitive seal life-cycle periods. Transit restrictions will be applied during seasonal migratory movements of narwhal into Eclipse Sound and Milne Inlet.

“Baffinland is planning additional workshops with community representatives to finalize its approach towards the shipping season and will report the outcomes of these meetings to the NIRB as they are available,” the company said.

And on another shipping issue that produced confusion last year, the company confirms that it proposes 176 “voyages” per year, with a voyage defined as a trip into and out of Milne Inlet.

“A transit is considered to be a one-way track either to or from Milne Port by any of the vessels. A voyage represents two transits through the Northern Transportation Corridor,” the company said.

And Baffinland said it commits to “never surpass” 176 voyages per year.

But within that constraint, the company said it wants the ability to vary the annual rate of iron ore production, depending on seasonal and market conditions.

“For clarity, this would mean that if in a given year 11 MT [million tonnes] were transported, the following year could see the transportation of 13 MT, if this can be achieved within the stated activity limits of 176 ore carrier voyages per shipping season and an average of 10 train trips per day,” Baffinland said.

BIMC Updated Phase 2 Package by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Pond resident on

    BIM could have saved a lot of hassle if they just came out with this in the first place.

  2. Posted by North Baffiner on

    If BIM continues to lie about their ulterior motives of never shipping through Steensby Inlet, it will allow Inuit to see the truth about the greedy paternalistic mindset of the governing managers of BIM.
    The shipping through Milne Inlet was only for capital growth to enable BIM to build the approved railway to Steensby Inlet. They have made enough to purchase 110 kilometres of railway, which is more than halfway to Steensby Inlet. Therein lies the rub, knowing that they have no intention of ever shipping via the southern route.
    Otherwise, BIM would not be so adamant about continuing their lies of only using Milne Inlet shipping to allow purchase of rail materials to Steensby. Well, you have 110 kilometres already, why don’t you start building towards Steensby now?
    If you continue, all Eskimo spiritual support will vanish, and BIM operations will see nothing but the worst weather and conditions fighting them at every turn. The whole marine system in Pond Inlet is already at maximum stress, due to the roughly 200 passages of ships overall per summer, and it cannot handle any further proposed increases in shipping.
    It is time BIM acknowledged that they are lying in all of their applications and that once the railway link is built to Milne Inlet, they will never ever spend $4 billion to ship through Steensby Inlet.
    BIM should be forced to pay an additional $100 million per year for railway and ore carrier traffic and for loss of livelihood costs for every Inuk hunter in Pond Inlet for current impacts without the railway.
    BIM, start the work towards Steensby Inlet instead, otherwise all bets are off and we will now FIGHT your lies every step of the way and stop all railway development proposals towards the NORTHERN route. Let all of the Eskimo “gremlins” now impact Baffinland.

    • Posted by Fantasy Land on

      “all Eskimo spiritual support will vanish” … Oh yea, I am going to guess that there isn’t as much power to that magic as you like to think, actually absolutely none.

  3. Posted by Francis Piugattuk on

    Bottom Line; The proposed railway to Milne is to garner enough capital so the railway to Steensby can be built. In the end they hope to run railways north and south from Mary River. In other countries, their respective governments ignore the locals and Arcellor Mittal gets their way. They did try their old tactics up here but am hoping for a staunch stance from our environmental and wildlife protectors.

  4. Posted by Greg MacDonald on

    Port Steensby is the only place shipping should be approved. Time to disallow the northern route!

  5. Posted by Two faced on

    We’re really starting to see the dark side of mining. Baffinland top execs and community liaisons say all the right things, but anyone who lives around here knows what their mindset really is. Go around town to the bars and see what the chamber of mining folks are barking about. It’s not harmonious by any means. They’re pissed off and saying “don’t bite the hand that feeds ya!”.

    QIA made a big mistake getting in bed with this beast. It’s not going to get better until you get rid of these meat heads. The environmental concerns could have been dealt with if this company wasn’t so nasty beneath the surface.

  6. Posted by WMB on

    The company has no one to blame but itself for the mess its in. So many people have been pointing fingers at Inuit Orgs and community reps, but at the end of the day the company has done a horrible job of working with Inuit. It keeps switching its plans whenever it can, saying one thing to investors and another thing to the public. On top of all of that, it was missing a lot of key information before the NIRB hearing started. At the end of the day, its their mess. Let’s see if they’re willing/able to clean it up.

  7. Posted by Putuguk on

    Over the past 5 years, the price of iron ore has changed from a low of $39 a ton at the end of 2015, to a high of $125 a ton last summer and is sitting at around $95 a ton now.

    That is a 3 fold price difference in the primary product of Mary River mine within 5 years, and I am sure many new price differences to come that can only be roughly modeled or predicted.

    Those price changes make a huge difference in what a company can plan on doing, and what they can achieve in operations, especially if they have only one mining operation and no other sources of revenue.

    Imagine a skidoo shop that can sell a machine for $10,000 one year and can then can sell the same machine for $30,000 3 years later. You can bet that the number of staff they have, the size of their shop they operate and would also want to build, the parts and the number of machines they order will be very different either way.

    Plans for iron mining in Nunavut have changed over time. I suspect that the primary reason for this is the big swings in price that the company has faced in what they are selling. The basic business environment that an iron miner faces needs to be considered before anyone dreams up ulterior motives for changed plans.

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