Decision on Baffinland should come in summer, northern affairs minister says

Nunavut Impact Review Board to share recommendation by May 13

Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, seen here Wednesday at a news conference in Iqaluit, says a decision from the federal government on the expansion of Baffinland’s Mary River could happen by summer, pending the recommendations of the Nunavut Impact Review Board. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier

Updated on Thursday, April 14, 2022 at 4 p.m.

A decision from the federal government over Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed expansion of Mary River iron mine is should happen this summer, says Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board is expected to issue its recommendation by a deadline of May 13. In January, it concluded a hearing process which began in November 2019.

Vandal said Northern Affairs will conduct a “thorough review” of the board’s recommendation, and within 90 days of its release, will announce a final decision.

“I and my team are eagerly waiting the recommendation of Nunavut Impact Review Board,” he said in Iqaluit Tuesday, while in the city to promote the recently tabled federal budget.

“We’re going to make sure the duty to consult has been respected, and we will come out with our decision in 90 days.”

Baffinland has applied to double the mine’s output from six to 12 million tonnes of iron ore per year, and to do so, it wants to build a 110-kilometre railway and a second dock at Milne Inlet.

In an interview with Nunatsiaq News, Vandal said once the review board releases its report it’s possible his department could seek further consultation, depending on how the initial hearings allowed people to share their perspectives.

Either way, he said, he promises a decision in the required timeline.

“We’re going to wait for the report, and we’re going to read it very, very thoroughly,” Vandal said.

Baffinland CEO and president Brian Penney said he was “delighted” to hear that Vandal would make his decision on his company’s proposed expansion within 90 days of NIRB releasing its recommendations.

“We have been working hard for years to ensure that, when approved, the Phase 2 expansion will maximize positive social benefits to the communities, such as employment and training, while minimizing and mitigating the potential impacts on the surrounding environment,” Penney said in a written statement to Nunatsiaq News.

The proposed expansion has been controversial.

While some hamlets, including Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay, Sanirajak and Grise Fiord, have expressed support due to its potential economic benefits, north Baffin hunters and trappers associations have been among high-profile critics, citing environmental concerns.

Specifically, they fear the proposed railway could negatively impact caribou migration, and increased shipping could threaten narwhal populations.

Vandal said his decision will consider both the potential environmental impacts from the project, as well as possible economic benefits it might generate.

“We need to make sure, first of all, that the environment is respected,” he said.

“I understand that mining is an important issue and job creator in the North, that’s simply fact, so we’re going to give it a real thorough analysis.”

This story was updated from an earlier version to include a comment from Brian Penney, CEO and president of Baffinald Iron Mines Corp.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Pork Pie on

    I think the closing quote is the spoiler as to what this decision will look like.

    The question now is will Lori be sitting beside Dan for the announcement?

    You got to shine during the announcement of close to a billion for housing, Lori, nice win for you… is it time to pay back the piper?

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  2. Posted by Consistency on

    I think it should be approved with a condition. If the 12 Million Tons is approved they can only actually pull out of the ground the same % that Inuit/Nunavummiut work at the mine at any given time. Dont include that person that only worked for a week then quit in the total employees for the year.

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  3. Posted by Truestory on

    Remember folk, more job opportunities for us Nunavummiut. We need Inuit engineers, trades people. No income support collecting.

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    • Posted by condescending BS on

      Before you get this high and mighty tone to people on income support, please do your homework. Phase 2 will bring FEWER jobs overall. Switching to a train from truck means fewer drivers.

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      • Posted by Truestory on

        Truckers will have a choice, learn a new trade, or retire. That is the plan at Mary River. But, more jobs will open up. Train engineers, mechanics, and others that Inuit can become good at. I don’t know why some people wants us to rely on income support. When I collected 1500 a month for a family of 5. Wasn’t even enough. Now, I make 7 thou a month. If I can do it, so can you.

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        • Posted by hmm on

          “The truckers will have an option to be re-trained”

          Will this require them to go to Southern Canada away from their families for long periods of time? If so, it’s quite likely that a lot of the drivers won’t be able to be re-trained due to family commitments.

          “or retire”

          They wouldn’t ‘retire’ — they’d be laid off.

          “But more jobs will open up”

          That’s wishful thinking, not based at all on the plans the company has laid out to the review board. The workplace is also unionized, so they can’t just fire the qallunaat and replace them with Inuit.

          “I don’t know why some people want us to live on income support”

          No one wants that — we just want to have an honest conversation about this proposal. Unfortunately, Baffinland, the union, and the GN continue to mislead people, suggesting that this expansion will create more jobs. Sadly, your posts are also misleading people about the benefits of this expansion.

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  4. Posted by Iqaluitmiuta on

    If it’s going ahead then Nunavut just as well build roads right across Baffin & all of Nunavutmiutaks will benefit & have ever lasting jobs in my dreams of a young man only.

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