Baffinland plans to go back to Steensby

CEO Brian Penney unveils future of Mary River iron mine at Northern Lights keynote speech

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. CEO Brian Penney announces his company plans to focus on developing a railroad south from its Mary River mine to Steensby Inlet, during a keynote address at the Northern Lights conference and trade show in Ottawa Thursday. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. plans to begin work on its Steensby Inlet rail project by the end of the year, if it can secure the funds.

CEO Brian Penney made the announcement Thursday morning during a keynote speech on the future of Mary River mine at the Northern Lights conference and trade show in Ottawa.

“We are keenly focused on the railway,” he told his audience of government officials, Inuit leaders and northern industry workers.

The Mary River iron mine is located on north Baffin Island in Nunavut.

A map shows Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River mine in relation to Steensby Inlet, where it plans to begin building a railroad for shipping. Also noted on the map is Milne Inlet, where the company had previously hoped to ship through. (Graphic courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.)

Baffinland spent the past five years focused on a proposal to double its output of iron ore from the mine to nearby Milne Inlet. The federal government rejected that proposal in November.

ITK Job Opportunties, Senior Policy Advisor, MMIWG

In 2012, the federal government approved Baffinland’s proposal to build a railroad south from the mine to Steensby Inlet. A month later, the company announced it was going to focus on shipping its ore from Milne Inlet instead.

At the time, the company cited funding issues for turning away from Steensby Inlet. A decade later, Penney said the company is still trying to overcome that barrier.

“Steensby is over five times more expensive than the northern railway, and financial institutions at that time were just not prepared to give the backing needed to build it,” Penney said during his speech.

Now, he said, the Mary River deposit has proven to hold enough high-grade iron ore to make such an investment worthwhile.

Baffinland’s leaders have long said that they had not fully abandoned their railway project. As recently as 2021, they were still saying its Steensby plan was still on the table.

Aside from financing, the next steps for getting Steensby off the ground involve talking to communities and securing necessary approvals, said Penney.

Invitation for Applications – Deputy Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut

Penney was not available for an interview after the announcement to expand on his company’s plans.

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok was in the audience for Penney’s speech. He said the announcement was news to him, but he would have an open mind as communities and regional organizations are consulted.

“Once we’ve seen the proposal, I’m sure we’ll have the opportunity to really assess it,” he said.

“We’ve been very clear that we’re open, willing to sit down with QIA, with NTI, with Baffinland, with Agnico, really with anybody.”

In a statement emailed to Nunatsiaq News later Thursday, federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal said, “The southern route through Steensby Inlet has previously received approval and we are encouraged by Baffinland’s continued engagement with local communities and Inuit partners.

“Our office will continue to work with all partners to protect jobs and grow the economy, while ensuring Inuit rights are respected.”

Penney also used his speech to reflect on the past year at Baffinland and reiterated the disappointment he felt when the federal government rejected the Mary River Phase 2 expansion.

“It would be easy to only see the negative at the end of a half decade of consultations and regulatory undertaking,” he said.

“Instead, I am choosing to look ahead with a positive perspective.”

Penney highlighted Baffinland’s hiring of 71 new Inuit employees, bringing the total to 350.

He also emphasized that Nunavut is set to play a role in the global transition to a green, renewable economy.

“The future has never been brighter for Mary River Mine,” Penney said.

“The world needs Nunavut’s high-grade iron ore.”


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(28) Comments:

  1. Posted by Consistency on

    Shocker, they have the approval, what can be done now? Also I have full faith that if they had been approved for the Milne rail line in a couple years (or less) they would then also do the Steensby route, since they have that approval already.

    BIM wants to get the ore out of the ground and out of Nunavut as fast as possible. If they can turn the 150+ year mine into a 30 or less year mine that is more money in the pocket of the current owners and shareholders, they dont care the long term harm on our land.

  2. Posted by Hard working inuk on

    Let’s get this shit approved, get inuit jobs, we have a lot of able people to take care of on welfare lol,

    • Posted by What’s the cost? What’s the return? on

      Is destroying our land forever really worth less than 400 inuit employed? Even if they had 3,500 inuit employed for a few decades, would it be worth it?
      This is worth a long hard think. At the moment our land is being destroyed and nearly all the profits go out of the territory, while the land will be left scarred forever.

      • Posted by Super on

        Depends on how the income is applied imo. The mine should put on money management classes. They also want to build a indoor crusher to minimize dust. The railway will help reduce dust, though it should have animal crossings/embankments. Let the community grow.

        • Posted by Training on

          I believe the Company delivers financial literacy training. I saw a post about so the other month.

      • Posted by John K on


        How big do you think the mine is?

      • Posted by The Power on

        “What’s the cost” When you ask is it worth it, did you think about all this from another perspective? If all the mines just left Nunavut and never came back, where do you think the money is going to come from to keep everyone on welfare because there are no jobs. Do you think the Federal government will just keep pumping billions of dollars into the territory for nothing, give your head a shake.

        • Posted by John WP Murphy on

          I agree. Let’s cut off all social assistance and food banks to all under 65.
          Get the lazy butts off the sofa and out to real work when they aren’t providing for their own families

  3. Posted by sam on

    Yes,the world needs that iron ore for the war machine,

  4. Posted by Tom Hoefer on

    Google Red Dog mine in Alaska: Biggest zinc producer in the world, on Inupiat lands, with a port and road that runs through the equivalent of a national park, with caribou. Success story for the Inupiat and a long term contributor to their economy. Alaska government through AIDEA funded construction of the road and port, and the company pays it off through annual usage payments. Could QIA and Canada pay to build and operate the rail line and port at Steensby, and collect user fees during mine life? Why not get proactive together?

    • Posted by Warren Bernauer on

      Because then if the mine stops production due to changes in market dynamics, Inuit beneficiaries and Canadian tax payers will have no way to get back the money they’ve invested. QIA and Canada paying for Baffinlands infrastructure wouldn’t be “proactive”. It would be foolish.

      • Posted by All in on

        Which is why financiers are so gun shy of investors on this project!

      • Posted by Why ever do anything?! on

        Yea eh! And if an asteroid hits the world tomorrow going to work today would have been a total waste of time. Seriously, I’m with you bro!!

      • Posted by Tom Hoefer on

        Think big. Nunavut will need big thinkers and resource managers when they get devolution, when they assume their role in advancing their own economic self-reliance.

    • Posted by Baffinland is on an island if you check the map on

      You can reference places easily which have more caribou foraging ranges than our island which has mountains and limited land for the caribou to eat and live. These are our food and we need them to live and grow. So when a large project disrupts their foraging grounds and disperses lots of iron dust, one grows concerned and greed overrides these concerns with most mining people.

  5. Posted by Truestory on

    Coolio. Now, to educate Inuit to become engineers, trades people ect.. Should stop sending money to them useless bodies Q.I.L. and N.I.R.B. now.

  6. Posted by Ironman on


    • Posted by Truestory on

      Nunavut was never great. Just a messy unmanaged territory.

      • Posted by Boooo on

        This is a reflection of your thinking. I’m glad it’s isolated thought

    • Posted by Anguttialook on

      When was nunavut great…oh a great shit show with weak and spineless leadership..what kind of shit you smoking..Ironman.. you sure are deluded..1/2 of nunavut is on essay..handout..so that makes them great..lol

  7. Posted by Aputi on

    Great place to work, unlike agnico eagle where its french first inuit last plus you get to speak our own language where we do get warnings like agnico eagle

    • Posted by KIA missing on

      KIA missed some things with their negotiations with agnico, kIA needs to make sure what they negotiated are followed.

  8. Posted by Get this done on

    Let’s just leave Pond Inlet out of this and get this done, the other communities can benefit with more jobs and investments for their communities.

    • Posted by snapshot on

      Can’t, Pond Inlet is number ONE when it comes to this project.

      • Posted by Jim on

        Not if they are going to us Steensby Inlet instead, when you guys pushed them away always trying to stop them they will go somewhere else such as Steensby Inlet.

  9. Posted by Tired of the b*llshit on

    Funny how the report leaves out the very simple and more damaging practice of the locals and their hunting and celebrations. There’s a beautiful thing called social media and there has been countless times that an extremely young Polar bear cub been shot and killed. Or the extremely young narwhal with tusks so short you know they are under 2 years old. Or the common practice of hunting and killing whatever can be found. The real truth is that when you hunt without any regard to natural success and you kill them before anything young can reach an age to have off spring, or a female to reproduce, when wide out entire herds and pods it’s a no wonder all the animals so dependant on are disappearing. it’s too bad baffin is so against job unlike other areas of Nunavut. They will learn the hard way one day I guess

    • Posted by josywales on

      Yeah right. What about wiping out the cod in the east for greed, buffalo mostly wiped out for greed and the long list goes on.

  10. Posted by Cold island bear on

    They just want those jobs as far from inuit towns as possible.
    Why cant they join the rail to pond inlet or clyde river and give them jobs in town instead of just messing up land everywhere?
    Time to make one of those towns a port town or something anf make a law that anything from the mine HAS to go through the port town.
    These mines always gotta try bypass doing anything for/in towns.


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