Mary River mine could be mothballed, Baffinland president warns
Steps to slow operations ‘were not easy decisions,’ Brian Penney says
Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s president and CEO Brian Penney says there’s a possibility the company might mothball its Mary River iron mine next year.
Penney explained in an April 30 letter that shareholders are saying they won’t invest any more money because there have been delays securing the approval to expand the operation in northern Baffin Island.
“The letter was sent to all employees and contracting staff,” said Heather Smiles, Baffinland’s manager of stakeholder relations.
“This letter is intended from an internal perspective to communicate to our employees on what to expect.”
Penney also cited forecast reductions in iron ore prices in future years as a contributing factor, and said cash generated by the mine for the remainder of this year will be used to pay down debt and shield the company from the expected downturn in the iron ore market.
“If the iron ore price falls below US$100 per tonne, Baffinland will evaluate its options, which include making preparations for placing the operation on care and maintenance in 2022,” he stated.
Iron ore was selling for US$185 on Tuesday, according to Market Insiders website, and has been above US$100 since June 2020.
Baffinland wants to double the output at its Mary River mine as part of a project it’s calling a Phase 2 expansion. It would see the Oakville, Ont.-based mining company build a 110-kilometre railway from Mary River to Milne Inlet and increase ship transits to 176 each season.
That proposal is being assessed by the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which will make a recommendation to the federal minister of northern affairs, who has the final say.
Baffinland’s largest shareholder is Nunavut Iron Ore Inc., which owns 72 per cent of the company, and is controlled by a Texas-based private equity firm called the Energy & Minerals Group. The European steel giant ArcelorMittal owns the other 28 per cent.
To complete the expansion, the shareholders would have to invest between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion, according to a recent credit report on Baffinland, prepared by Moody’s Investors Service.
In his letter, Penney said the Phase 2 expansion, including its shift to lower-cost rail transportation, instead of trucking, and increased shipping volumes, “would be necessary to ensure the mine’s ongoing viability in the future.”
In January, when the Nunavut Impact Review Board hearing started up again after a 14-month hiatus, Penney offered a similar warning — that the Mary River iron mine couldn’t continue operating unless it was allowed to grow. The hearing adjourned in February after two weeks.
It resumed briefly in April but was temporarily suspended when the COVID-19 outbreak hit Iqaluit.
Both the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. have said they are not prepared to support the expansion.
To reduce further financial losses, Penney said the mine will begin to send out Phase 2-related contractor equipment that is on site now during the summer sealift.
“We are also beginning the process of cancelling additional sealift coming to site this summer that do not carry essential equipment,” he wrote.
“These were not easy decisions and I regret the uncertainty they represent for our employees and the impact they will have on the contractor businesses that depend on the Mary River project.”
Strange news seeing as the papers reporting great profits. and hearing Baffin Land has some of the richest ore in the world. Speculating that the investors would mothball it if they don’t get their way. Pure BS The original plan was all good and I hear they surpassed the margins. So let’s stop with the lies. I’m sure there are others that would love to have a mine with this high-grade ore. I was and am for mining as long as the protocols were met and Inuit lands and environment were protected. The majority of Inuit are not agianst the miniing. They are against pollution and disregard for animals and the environment.
What is their position on hyperbolic rhetoric?
And there you have it. Now how will the Guardians, NTI, and QIA be fed?
Didn’t really predict this did you?
Always other mines that can buy Baffinland. Maybe cleaner and more respect to the land.
And other places in the world to invest their money.
This is not a comment either in favour or against Baffinland but it’s a bit presumptuous and optimistic to think any next group of investors will be better, kinder and more environmentally friendly than Baffinland. This mine is now considered to be operating in a hostile and costly environment. The next group to come in are much more likely to be hard-assed money pinchers and risk mitigators and will negotiate accordingly.
Best of luck finding one. No other operator will ever touch this white elephant again after what happened to Baffinland.
The company is offering up their latest back mail attempts I see on trying to get by without environmental accountability. Very proud of my fellow Inuit for supporting each other. Don’t worry about the outside noise, as they have no clue of what matters to Inuit who find ways to survive. Mining companies will come and go with the depletion of the minerals and we will have to live with what is left behind. All the best to you Mr. Penney, was nice of you to visit.
….umm, if you hadn’t noticed, the Guardians WANT TO fed their families – from the land – in a clean environment.
Maybe the Guardians did predict this.
I seem to remember that the Guardians wanted an under-capitalized and polluting project to shut down. At least until Baffinland could do the mining properly, with respect for the land and no need to plead to Ottawa for bailouts, OR to whine about loosing money at every turn.
If Baffinland is losing money and the land is being polluted, who is winning this game? Quitting looks like a good option. The minerals are in the ground for when a responsible developer want to make a proposal.
ditto, qia got too greedy, taking $$$ for themselves for their own use, qia should be moth balled for not caring, if you cannot take care of north Baffin, give them a free reign of the resources in their territory, North Baffin. both KIAs are starting to have that qia sentiment in the respective regions. goodness poor inuit my fellow inuit who are not used to big $$ are getting greedy. hear stan and theo? regardless the MRP tactics, think about the young families who were just getting ahead, away from endless cycle of poverty and welfare.
I know QIA likes to be crapped on but come one! QIA was in favour of moving forward with Baffinland but instead went along with the Inuit of north Baffin.
Damned if you do and damned if you don’t,
Baffinland doing what ever they can to scare or fool us. They are doing this so they can go ahead with phase 2.
Smaller scale better relationship with Inuit future mine owners welcome
That’s not how it works, but as with most of these comments I don’t expect much insight from people who have no education or understanding of how anything in the world actually works.
Inuit understand their land, outsiders know and only a fraction of it through books tv news etc etc etc keeping environment clean from mining pollution was their wish
North Baffin will be deemed hostile to development and a very high risk investment. You won’t be getting the hippy dippy Ally Miners you expect. You’ll be getting multinational vulture capitalists who do everything they can to pick every last exploitable dime from the ground before they leave behind a dystopian hellscape.
You’ll look fondly on the days you wished Baffinland would make less dust.
GN has shut down caribou harvest for baffin
The people who comment on here about smaller, more responsible, more humane developer need to give their head a shake. This is international business trying to negotiate with people who feel that they are the centre of the universe. True that the Inuit own the land in Nunavut, but Nunavut is not the only place to conduct mining operations. There are a great deal of places to operate and unfortunately most do not have the environmental hoops that we do.
There are costs to conducting any business, human, environmental, etc, but there benefits as well economic, educational, etc. Just think what benefits would cease if Baffinland stopped paying even the 2% payroll tax, it would mean the GN would have millions of dollars less to support us living here. Plus the IIBAs that QIA are ranking in. Who will replace the jobs, taxes, royalties? Think about it
Even though the claim has great iron ore, companies will stay away like the plague from this and future endeavors. Why? Because the people and organizations of Nunavut won’t change and history will show that they are the ones that can’t be trusted. Trying to get anything done will just be a drain on one’s capital and resources.
Sure BIM will lose, but the people of Nunavut will lose even more.
Sadly, this anti-resource extraction attitude is all too prevalent in Canada, not just in Nunavut.
When Trudeau Sr. said ” …we are not hewers of wood and drawers of water” he was very much mistaken. That’s exactly who we are. Our resources are our past and our future, and we ignore that fact at our peril.
Well, interesting to note that at the last minute in the recently shut down hearings, Baffinland introduced a new proposal for dealing with dust and a list of new Inuit job opportunities. They did this after the door was closed on new submissions to NIRB. So if they could do this now, wht couldn’t they have done this – and likely other things we haven’t seen yet – a long time ago.
Whoever noted that this is a company playing in an international field and committed to making as $$$ as possible, has it right. But isn’t it time this way of doing things changed? Trashing the environment and treating us like cheap labour in order to make as much $$ as possible for American and other investors has no place in a smart, intelligent world. Elders who are long gone would be shocked at this way of thinking. The world, and we, are in a lot of trouble. Time for a different ways of doing things. If necessary, goodbye Baffinland.
Treating you like cheap labour lol that’s why the inuit have been at home since March last year with full pay? That’s also why they make 6 dollars an hour more than anyone else working there? That’s also why the company is so lenient on the drug an alcohol policy when it comes to inuit? Baffinland Iron Mines has been doing a fine job at causing very little environmental impact look at places like the Alberta oil sands that are absolutely destroyed beyond repair. I think you got lucky with how environmentally conscious Baffinland has been and improving every year. Also you think it might be expensive to live in Nunavut now wait until BIM shuts down then it will be worse.
Cheap labour ? Lol. Locals get paid a very good wage right off the start. A free education to do whatever they choose. I’m not sure if one of us Southern tradespeople could ever have walked into a business with absolutely zero experience and ask to be a welder, mechanic, machinist, etc and be welcomed with open arms. The mine is a HUGE opportunity for everyone willing to put in the effort get a free education. Biting the hand that literally feeds a lot of them. Sad. Oh, and pay every local 75% of their pay for over a year now while they cannot work. When I cannot go to work I have to draw EI. The whole situation burns my ass.
Inuit own SOME of the land in Nunavut.
I’m with “somebodys lying” on this one.
The ore is the richest iron ore of any mine in the world.
My understanding is that Baffinland is able to ship the ore direct to their customers from the mine without further refining.
Limited production does not always mean higher per unit costs, just plan for that level of production.
It is understandable that overall operating costs are higher than many other mines, but I don’t see how they are significantly higher.
Costs may be slightly higher than other fly in/fly out mines just because of the distance, but that is not a significant cost versus the total production cost (salaries, fuel, equipment, maintenance, etc.)
Iron ore is at or close to an all time high – and with global economies just revving up coming out of the pandemic it is likely to go higher in the next couple of years.
Sorry Baffinland but I’m not buying the story that you’re selling.
Your comment certainly shows your lack of understanding in finance and economics.
Let’s try backing up your statements with facts, or a rational arguments, heck even an irrational argument.
Did you even read the comments by “somebodys lying”? They said that they weren’t against mining, just about the way that Baffinland is going about blackmailing everyone to get their way on their expansion plans. I agree.
Sure attack my qualifications since you apparently have no other arguments to offer.
Ever heard the term “economies of scale”? It basically means that the more you can produce the cheaper the cost of that production and the easier it is to sell. Baffinland clearly demonstrated that it needed the additional infrastructure to meet that threshold and compete in a global market where other ore can be extracted much less expensively. That is what the previous poster was alluding to and what you don’t seem to grasp.
I am well aware of the “economies of scale” having worked in aviation for 35 years, all with smaller airlines competing against “the big guys”.
Baffinland’s profitability is not about economies of scale though with the one exception of moving the ore by truck or by train. The latter is more cost effective, no doubt – but it’s not a deal breaker.
That’s where Baffinland is being disingenuous. They are using the threat of shutting the mine down as they are not getting their way in the decision whether they can build their railroad – and they have already bought and staged a lot of the “phase 2” materials – before they secured the approval.
The mine is still very profitable using the haul road vs the railroad. Phase 2 would give Baffinland even lower costs, and more ore, therefore greater profit. That is the real issue.
I just don’t like Baffinland’s tactics. Mining can (and must) be done responsibly. There are too many past examples of mining companies that have just taken what they wanted with no regard to the land, the flora & fauna, and the inhabitants. We should be better than that.
Despite your assertion Baffinland has repeatedly demonstrated that:
1 – The mine is not profitable at he current scale of operation thus the request for the increase.
2 – At the current scale of operation the mine and company are very susceptible to fluctuations in the price of iron ore (an already volatile commodity). And therefore the reason to mothball the operation.
So clearly the mine wasn’t profitable.
This isn’t blackmail, it’s basic business. If you can’t mine ore for a profit, you wait until the price increases. With the insane overhead of operating a fly-in, fly-out mine, the railroad and the indoor crusher are needed to operate at prices below $100 a ton. Otherwise it’s just a fools errand. The investors are angry and they’ve pulled funding because NIRB has constantly postponed hearings and the deadline has been missed for this year’s Sealift. They’re losing faith and I can’t blame them. If I tried to renovate a house and had to wait three years for the municipality to issue a permit only to have it fall through at the last minute I would sell the house, basic business. Here’s some basic math, what’s 100% of Nunavut’s GDP minus 23% (Baffinland’s contribution) of Nunavut’s GDP? You think any more investors want to deal with the Nunavut Investment Rejection Bureau? Doubtful. Not much is going to change as far as the environment goes, Orcas will still hunt Narwhale due to receding ice from climate change, fish stocks will disappear from overfishing and caribou will continue to disappear because of overhunting. Future studies will show that the mine was having very little impact but was a great scapegoat for every environmental change on or around the island. There are going to be a lot of Northern and Southern workers without jobs and poverty in North Baffin will skyrocket. Not good.
True to many winners why don’t those people look at them selves first before crying over baffinland . Crazy just doing this to there own people . Some people like to work . Not just be on boards and cry about everything . Do you guys want nunavut to be welfare state sure do look like
These “whiners” you so often call are inuit people. Can you please stop refering to them as that please? Thank you.
There appears to be an abundance of knowledge about every facet of mine operations, world economies, environment all captured by the contributors herein. So go even further, pool your vast resources of knowledge and wealth, call the bluff, buy the mine and operate it the right way. Now if anyone takes this suggestion seriously they are lot less informed than ever imagined. Some of the commenters have obviously never invested or risked anything but feel content to tell everyone how to do things. Here is the challenge put your money and bravado where you mouth is. By the way “good luck”. Show the world how to do everything since your so informed about everything. Here’s my 2 cents, invest it wisely.
Arcelor Mittal has encountered resistance in every part of the world where it operated or invested in an iron ore mine, including South America, Africa, India, Quebec – and mounting multi-billion dollar debt – they knew the investment risks well (including higher cost of operations) and still played high stakes – it should learn to gamble less
They had permit to go south from day one with 9 month shipping window why didn’t they go with that . If get permit for phase 2 they still want to south anyway .
Because the NIRB hearings took too long and they lost the investment needed to secure a half billion dollar TBM to tunnel the railroad to Steensby
Steensby is a 6 billion dollar project while Phaze 2 is 1.5. Capital expense of Steensby is immense
The prevailing attitude in Nunavut is that someone will pay. The Canadian taxpayer, the government of Nunavut, the RIO or private companies like Baffinland. When more than half the population doesn’t work and lives in social housing it isn’t hard to see why they don’t see a need for mines. I say take away all this welfare and see how they feel about kiboshing gainful employment options in remote communities then.
Anti-iron-ore mining is not restricted to Nunavut – others have protested in Australia, India, Senegal, Quebec – there are real environmental risks that are long-term and irreversible – and often opposed due to its devastating effects – harvesting is the primary economy here that sustains – and there are significant concerns that the detrimental effects outweigh the benefits – the majority of wealth and benefits are for the few mine owners and rich investors (profits and investment returns) and a few percentage for tax collection and royalties – mining is not the only economy and income generator here – we can survive without the few dollars proportionately expended by these mining companies
But harvesting DOES NOT sustain. That is a myth. Harvesting COULD sustain, if people were willing to go back in time 100-years or more. But that’s not happening – how would they charge their cell ‘phones?
This territory is funded by the rest of Canada. If it does not develop resources it is not relevant to be here. Surviving off the welfare of other Canadians is not surviving at all.
You say “harvesting is the primary economy here that sustains”, but it’s absolutely not true and makes me wonder what you think sustaining actually means?
There seems to be this prevailing attitude here that if you’re putting meat on the table, you’re sustaining your family. But that is oh so small a part of what it actually takes to live, and it demonstrates a severe lack of knowledge of how a society/economy runs.
While out harvesting, somebody else is paying for your housing. Somebody else is paying for your child benefit payments and/or income assistance payments. Somebody else is paying for your medical services. Somebody else is paying for your child to be in school. That is, of course, unless you’re talking about working for a commercial company like Qikiqtaaluk Fisheries where you take a pay cheque home with taxes deducted to pay those bills.
The “primary economy here that sustains” is government transfer payments which are mostly paid by working people in the provinces.
Mary River is a high grade (80%+) iron ore mine. It does not need chemicals or tailings ponds to separate the ore and does not have the massive environmental problems that plague other iron mines. It is one of the cleanest, simplest mines on earth, that’s why it was approved to operate in Nunavut. Pleae do not associate it with the horrific disasters that are witnessed in most third world mines that have little regulation and are fraught with government corruption. Please do a little research next time before you try to spread a stereotype.
B.I.M. sells to the number one consumer of iron ore. China. As of today, the tensions between the Philipines, and China are very tense. And China is concentrating their interests and might not be buying for awhile. So, B.I.M. has a legitimate concern over this. It’s not B.I.M.’s fault.
Kind of but not really. One of the advantages of the mine is it’s proximity to Europe, much closer than a similar ore that’s in Brazil. That was in a CBC story years ago, I can’t find it now but it would make sense. China is a long way from Baffin Island
The price of iron ore depends on thousands of variables and has very little to do with which customer you sell to. It is a supply and demand situation and yes, China is a major consumer but there are many more players in the game with influence other than just China. The forecast is even more complex and is often wrong. If prices dip below $100 a ton, the mine goes into standby mode, this could happen in 2022, 2030 or next month. Without a railway and a larger crusher to cut overhead and fuel costs, the mine doesn’t make a profit, QIA gets no royalties and investors see no returns. Simple.
I had worked there. The Inuit were awesome. They have a great sense of humor, along with respect for the land. The companies associated with this mine can and should do better with their polluting habits
More do the Nunavut people want?
They submitted how to control dust.
They paid the Inuit full time for a year and 1 month. ( nobody remembers that )
They fed and gave lots of fuel to the protestors.
They help and spends millions to the Inuit.
It’s actually ridiculous.
This company is bending over backwards and you guys can’t see the upside potential.
This company is amazing for the North.
It does no harm to any wildlife.
Baffin Island is massive.
This mine has a footprint of 8km then a 100 km road.
Caribou disappeared long before this mine was here. It’s called over hunting and snow mobiles and high powered rifles.
JIMMY,welcome to nunavut,this is what we turned into,gimme,gimme, the federal gov, is giving us 2.5billion a year for 38,000 people and it does, not end, and it is never enough, we are totally dependent on handouts, from the feds, we have turned into the east coast of Canada, and the have provinces keep paying for us, and will continue,we started this in 1999.
Now Larry don’t get into that farmers and fishermen get all the handouts . I worked in mine for 25 years no handout for mines closing
East coaster,i worked 40 years,and still am,when i got laid off,i found another job,by the way fishermen,and lumber jacks,and they all work hard,4 months of the year.
I have seen videos first hand from the locals the wild life is disappearing because everything seen gets shot and killed, traditional hunting practices used one drives the snowmobile while the other kills anything and everything! Baffinland is not the problem
Colour me surprised. I wonder if the malcontents will try suing the NGOs who led them down this garden path. Good luck living living a life of poverty and hardship North Baffin communities because those NGOs won’t be there living it with you.
Nunavut was fine before Baffinland. Nunavut will be fine after Baffinland.
If they don’t have the money then let another responsible mine take it over.
Inuit were fine were they? What is the unemployment rate in the North Baffin communities? How many job opportunities exist for Inuit within those communities? What is the rate of annual out-migration in those communities? How many Inuit currently rely on income support and public housing in those communities. Look those stats up and please tell me again how “fine” Inuit are doing.
INUIT are fine,define fine,30 percent of inuit children suffer food insecurity,major housing shortage,major unemployment,substance abuse,sposal abuse,dropout rate highest in the north,no elders care being sent to ottawa,and 25 percent of inuit leave Nunavut and move south to get away from poverty.what rock do you live under
Really great wide discussion of northern economics and the global steel market. Let’s distill it all down to what we know.:
The mine was planned and approved by the investors, miners and all levels of governments including multiple levels of Inuit to ship off the south end of the island. Never the North end. That plan was inexplicably thrown out due to a supposed emergency of iron ore prices. Which, like all commodities constantly fluctuates so any long term player like these southern investors would not really pay attention to that.
They know the issue is not the dust nor the supposed indifference to them of rocks so pure in iron that you can weld them together.
The issue is the bait and switch they casually used to ship all of the ore through the heart of the greatest marine mammal migration in the world that has sustained a continued Inuit harvest for millennia before Lakshmi Mittal was born in 1950 and will long after with or without BIM.
Corporations come and go, but cultures are not for sale. The Texan and London international rich people already make a fortune and use these same heavy- handed blackmail tactics on Indigenous people around the world. This time it is on Inuit-owned land so please walk elsewhere if you do not like playing by our rules.
Cultures may not be for sale but it is impossible to feed your family pay a mortgage or rent or get out from under the crushing dependence of income support by relying on your culture. Hunting is expensive where is that money supposed to come from? More government hand outs?
To say “culture is not for sale” is an evocative statement meant to elicit something akin to nationalist flag waving; itself an emotional and defensive posture against an uncertain and complex world. Reality is whatever ‘culture’ means in the context of Nunavut today is certainly not what it meant a generation ago, nor what it will mean a generation from now. Cultures are not monoliths, they are in a real sense subjective and don’t exist anywhere in space or time (which is not say they are meaningless constructs, only that they are constructs). Most importantly, cultures are collections of psychological and behavioural adaptations. If a person or a people refuse to adapt to the changing conditions of their environment, they will be unlikely to prosper in those conditions.
Alot of southerns try and say hunting is expensive. For a rookie it is expensive if you don’t know what your doing.
This is Inuit life, don’t like it? Then GTFO.
Baffinland cost of shipped ore is $17/ton! Years ago at an Arcelor AGM, talking about Baffinland, that “this project makes a lot of money, even through cycles of 50 or 60 dollar ore”.
So there’s that.
This a unique situation.
I respect and appreciate the arguments on both sides.
Many companies are capable , and in a position to take over this operation. Iron Ore in that concentration is a very attractive proposition.
The real damage here : and this will have a ripple effect across our whole economy : is the press coverage. When a major Resource Company starts going on main stream media and talking about slowing down or halting operations altogether due to factors involving the local communities – that message is being read by other potential investors.
It reads : Baffinland pulls Operation due to difficult local business environment.,
That message is going to resonate with other Companies, and is going to factor in their Risk Assessment of any future investment projects. This will have a negative impact on our ability to attract investment capital to the north. And, the Companies who are willing to take the additional risks, will not be A Class companies. Hence, we are fooling ourselves if we believe that these lesser firms will have a greater focus on Environmental issues.
The Nunavut Government needs a Communications expert to work closely with Baffinland to modify their press statements. That would be the most effective way to safeguard our ability to attract greater investment into our region. Because the Media attention that this issue is generating will have a longer lasting effect that a singular Iron Extraction Project.
If this project goes south : Have a study showing how we Saved the Seals, with lots of Media Pictures of Baby Seals. That is positive.
If the Project goes forward ( and I very much hope it does ) : The message should be : Local Iron Extraction Program works hand in hand with Local communities and proves to be a world – Leader Profit wise / Environment wise.
Either way, we win.
If we do nothing, and press releases like the one above continue to go out. We lose.