‘Fewer crossings, less noise, less disturbances:’ Baffinland makes ship upgrade
Company moved close to 6.1 million tonnes of ore on Capesize bulk carrier vessels, says company spokesperson
Updated on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023 at 5:30 p.m.
Nunavut’s only iron mine moved more ore than ever before this year and used fewer ships to do it.
Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. shipped close to 6.1 million tonnes from its Mary River mine on northern Baffin Island in 2023, according to a Nov. 1 post on the company’s Facebook page. The previous company record was 5.9 million tonnes of ore, set in 2019.
Baffinland’s ships also made fewer crossings this year, thanks to the introduction of Capesize bulk carrier class of ships, which are more than double the size of carriers previously used by the company.
The Capesize class of carrier is owned by German company Oldendorff. It’s one of the largest in the world at 300 metres long and 50 metres wide.
“Capesize ships, silent ships, these are all things that the public had asked for; fewer crossings, less noise, less disturbances,” said Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman on Monday.
These carriers also leave a smaller carbon footprint, said Akman. He compared the difference to the operating efficiency of a fridge from 1998 to one from 2023.
The announcement follows federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal’s approval Oct. 17 of the mining company’s proposal to ship more ore while it raises funds to build a 149-kilometre railway south from the mine to Steensby Inlet, and ship from there.
Dubbed the Sustaining Operations Proposal, the plan is a pivot from the company’s previous goal of shipping 12 million tonnes of ore annually out of Milne Inlet.
Vandal rejected that plan in November 2022 in the face of local concern about the effect increased mining and shipping activity in the area would have on wildlife that hunters depend on for sustenance.
Now, Baffinland is allowed to ship a total of 6.9 million tonnes of iron ore through the 2024 shipping season. The agreement will have to be renewed after that.
Akman said the company is “pleased” by the government’s approval of its sustaining operations plan.
The timeline for the Steensby Inlet project is uncertain.
“It’s an expensive project,” Akman said. “It takes time to raise the funds.”
Mining makes up 37 per cent of Nunavut’s gross domestic product, behind government services which contribute 30 per cent, according to data provided by Tom Hoefer, executive director of NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines.
Baffinland’s final shipment of iron ore for this year left Milne Inlet on Oct. 31.
Correction: This article has been updated from an earlier version to remove an incorrect reference to how a source provided a comment.