Baffinland still plans to move forward with Steensby Inlet route

Company’s goal is to ship 30 million tonnes of iron ore per year, says executive

The Nunavut Impact Review Board’s hearing on Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s mine expansion proposal resumed Monday in Iqaluit at the Aqsarniit hotel. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

If Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River mine expansion proceeds, the company will also look to develop a railroad south to Steensby Inlet afterwards, the company’s senior director of sustainable development said Monday as a public hearing into the company’s expansion plan resumed.

“I have to also stress that that is very aspirational at this point and time,” Lou Kamermans said.

He was responding to questions from the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s executive director, Karen Costello, as the hearing resumed at an Iqaluit hotel.

Baffinland is entering the final stage of a lengthy review process on an expansion proposal of its Mary River mine. This includes a public hearing that began in 2019.

In 2012, John Duncan, then the federal northern affairs minister, approved the Ontario-based mining company’s proposal to build a 149-kilometre railroad to Steensby Inlet and ship 18 million tonnes of iron ore per year by 242 transits through the Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait.

But a month later the company changed course to focus on Milne Inlet. It began by hauling ore by truck to a port at that location, and now wants to expand along the route by building a railroad, doubling iron ore production and building a new dock.

The reason, according to the company, was that it didn’t have enough money to finance the Steensby project alone, and that its current expansion proposal for the Mary River mine would solve that.

Kamermans said that’s still the case.

“We do not have the funding in place that is required to move forward with Steensby,” Kamermans said.

That project certificate that includes shipping through Steensby Inlet has no expiry date.

Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq, the board’s chairperson, asked Baffinland representatives if they believe the Mary River project can be financially sustainable with the falling prices of iron and extra costs for additional proposed testing and monitoring.

This expansion would make the mine more profitable, allowing the company to fund environmental monitoring programs and offering protection against fluctuating iron prices, said Megan Lord-Hoyle, Baffinland’s vice-president of sustainable development.

This, in turn, will help Baffinland “to ultimately construct a 30-million tonne project,” Lord-Hoyle said.

The review board’s in-person hearing is scheduled to conclude Saturday. Afterwards, Baffinland will have until December to submit final statements. Then the board will finalize its recommendation to Daniel Vandal, federal minister of northern affairs, who is then expected to approve or deny the mining company’s proposed expansion.


This story has been updated to better describe the timing of the company’s Phase 2 expansion plans.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Railway Safety Act on

    Of course they want the railway.
    They have friends in high places.

    They also know that section 14 (1) (c) of the Railways Safety Act says: “Where the Minister is satisfied that the construction of a work, is likely to promote, or make a contribution to, safe railway operations, the Minister may authorize the making of a grant for the purpose of defraying the whole or part of the cost of undertaking that program, study, project or work.”

    Yes, they know they ask for a grant to cover the entire cost of building and operating that railroad.

    Do you think they have friends who will give them such a grant?
    Do you want to find out just how much of the cost of building and operating that railway each of us will have to pay?

    • Posted by sam on

      Blah,Blah,Blah,i know more than anyone,this song is getting old,

    • Posted by Reality Bites on

      So let’s summarize…
      QIA is practically giving away the iron for free in exchange for the promise of jobs for Inuit.
      Ottawa is expected to pay for transporting the iron to the ships, in exchange for economic development in the north.
      Inuit are expected to work at the mine, mostly driving trucks, until robots replace them.
      Royalties to QIA are calculated after deducting shipping costs.
      About the only expense Mary River will have left is the cost of capital, which is at historic lows.
      They will have to pay for fuel for operating the mine, but that comes from Europe, which likely means Russia.
      So who will make all the money?

      On the plus side, if the ocean around North Baffin is low in iron, the iron dust may improve char growth. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing…

      And why will this mine prove to be different from all the other mines ever operated in Canada, in terms of polution and abandonment?

      • Posted by sebastian estrada on

        Because every other mine in Canada uses tailings ponds… which take up alot of space and is not that environmentally friendly.

  2. Posted by Terry Dobbin on

    Let’s hope that all concerns by Nunavummiut with regards to any issues with the phase two development proposal before NIRB will be address during this complete NIRB process. Community concerns over the health of caribou and marine mammal populations still need to be addressed through public hearings with the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
    Here remains a great opportunity for all parties to work together to advance responsible development of the Mary River Mine, and for BIM to remain a strong, resilient and responsible contributor to the health and well being of Nunavummiut for many years to come. We can actually have our cake and eat it too.


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