No emergency order for Baffinland

Vandal says he can’t ‘re-certify easily’ mining company’s shipping limit to avoid layoffs

Federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, seen here speaking at an announcement in Iqaluit in 2021, said Wednesday he cannot “re-certify easily” an increase in Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s shipping limit for 2022. The mining company made that request last week, saying it needed the increase to avoid laying off more than 1,300 workers at its Mary River mine. (File photo by Corey Larocque)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal will not raise Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s iron ore shipping limit after the company said it would lay off hundreds of workers if he rejected its emergency order request.

Vandal did not grant the company’s request to ship six million tonnes of iron ore in 2022 in a letter he sent Wednesday to Baffinland chief executive officer Brian Penney, which Nunatsiaq News obtained.

“I recognize the sensitivity of Baffinland’s current request,” Vandal wrote in the two-page letter. “Given your history of operating at six million tonnes per annum, I wish it was one I could re-certify easily.”

Baffinland has been operating in 2022 on a permit that allows it to ship 4.2 million tonnes from its Mary River mine. The company has said it needs a higher limit or it will have to lay off more than 1,300 workers.

Vandal also sent the letter to Premier P.J. Akeeagok, three territorial cabinet ministers, Qikiqtani Inuit Association president Olayuk Akesuk, and Nunavut Impact Review Board executive director Karen Costello.

Vandal wrote he is “encouraged” that Baffinland sent a request to the review board on May 20 to raise the shipping limit and that the company should work closely with QIA for a solution.

Vandal said he would not approve Baffinland’s request to raise the shipping limit because the review process “is important to Inuit and territorial partners in Nunavut — as well as businesses and future investors — to provide certainty.”

“And critically, I understand the current request does not have the support of local Inuit at this time,” he said.

He said his staff would arrange a meeting between Baffinland and QIA “to work out existing concerns so that this project remains viable into the foreseeable future.”

In an email to Nunatsiaq News, Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman said the company expects to have that meeting on Thursday “and to rapidly address all issues for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Baffinland’s CEO requested an emergency order in a letter to Vandal on May 26, calling for the minister to “certify that an emergency exists and that it is in the interest of ensuring the health and safety of the general public” that Baffinland be allowed to continue to ship six million tonnes of iron ore in 2022, instead of 4.2 million tonnes.

“The emergency is avoiding the issuance of mass layoff notices … to up to 1,328 Canadians (which includes at least 209 Inuit), which would be triggered by the imminent stoppage of the production and trucking operation at [the Mary River mine],” Penney wrote.

He said there will be a “significant negative impact on the mental health” of employees and a risk of “worsening the food security crisis” in north Baffin Island if there are layoffs.

The company will not start laying off employees until 16 weeks after the company files a notice with the Nunavut Labour Standards Compliance Office, Akman said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Akman said Baffinland would not file that notice until after Vandal decided whether to grant an emergency order.

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(34) Comments:

  1. Posted by Inuapik on

    Go way back which inuit Org’s. Approved this be it local HTA’s QIA NTI or GN… from each affected community…history says they all approved…otherwise we would not be here to debate this enviromental question of most importance…between a multibillion dollar mine or hunters who still think they still can make money off the land?

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    • Posted by Inuit Owned Land on

      FYI, the parcel that Baffinland is in is Inuit Owned Land (IOL), own by the people of Pond Inlet, badly administered by QIA.

      Surface and subsurface is privately own by Pond Inlet Inuit. Administered by Qikiqtani Inuit Ass.

      Of course the minister can’t give emergency order that is not Canada’s land, this parcel of land is privately INUIT OWNED LAND, signed by Canada through Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

      Did people forget about this part of history? Why are we surprise of the outcome?

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      • Posted by Northern Baffin on

        its owned by the QIA, inuit owned lands are owned by the IO, not the people of Pond Inlet, which i think it should be. clarification please.

        thanks;

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      • Posted by ChrisT on

        The land is NOT privately held be the people of Pond Inlet no matter what a couple of dominant local families would have us to believe.

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          • Posted by Inuit Owned Land on

            If you want to go hunt into another communities the local HTO’s have to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ because each communities privately own the land.

            Did people forget about the history of NLCA or are we just going by hearsay? or what people think at the moment? It doesn’t work like that. Facts and agreements are written in stones. That’s why the minister can’t make any decision. It’s already written in Canada highest law approved by all the provinces and territories.

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            • Posted by Maq-Pat on

              I’ll save you the trip to the land titles office. Inuit Owned Land (IOL) is owned by each regional Inuit associations (see Nunavut Agreement Section 19.3.1), QIA in this instance. IOL outside of communities can ONLY be sold or transferred other to other RIAs, NTI, or the feds (19.7.1) in other words it is not possible for a community to directly own its surrounding IOL. If QIA wants to only approve usage that supported by the closest community, they can do that. But, it is QIA choosing that, it is not a veto held by the community.

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              • Posted by Inuit Owned Land on

                I call bull to this statement.

                If it works like that then the mine would’ve gone forward because QIA signed the Inuit Certainty Agreement and IIBA.

                This land parcel is owned by Pond Inlet Inuit administered by QIA. Otherwise local HTO’s would not have any power in their say.

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                • Posted by Inuit Owned Land on

                  If you’re statement is true then I can go hunt anywhere in Nunavut without any input from local HTOs!

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              • Posted by John K on

                This is exactly why our communities are starved for revenue.

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          • Posted by Observer on

            No, it’s just the name of the parcel, not the ownership. IOL parcels are owned by the Regional Inuit Association (with NTI owning the minerals in some of them). Ownership was originally to TFN/NTI under the land claim, and NTI then transferred the title to the RIAs. Unless the RIAs then transferred the title to communities, which they did not, the communities are not the land owners.

            Anyone claiming otherwise is, at best, mistaken and uninformed.

            If you think about it, it makes sense. Why would the QIA, an Inuit organization, transfer ownership to a hamlet, which is NOT an Inuit organization? Hamlets are civic governments, representing all residents, Inuit and non-Inuit. It’s theoretically possible for a mayor and hamlet council to be completely non-Inuit, in which case they’d have control over Inuit owned land. Which sounds sort of dumb, doesn’t it?

            But you don’t have to believe me. Email the Land Titles office and ask.

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      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        “The parcel that Baffinland is in is Inuit Owned Land (IOL), own by the people of the QIKIQTANI REGION” There I fixed it for you …. you’re welcome.

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      • Posted by No future for anyone on

        Lol not canadas land? If it’s not canadas land why do the people living on it get canadas welfare and government hand outs?

  2. Posted by Maybe the Inuit Orgs will pay. on

    Since baffinland paid their workers to stay home during covid lockdowns maybe it’s time for the Inuit Orgs to pay for these employees while they’re laid off so that they don’t have to look for work and can go back to the mine next year.

    One can reasonably assume this is a temporary shutdown as the mines holding areas for ore will be full until the next shipment.

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      So the community already has its hand out demanding that the laid off miners be paid by the QIA eh? Sorry it doesn’t work that way. And if Baffinland do not get their extension to mine 6 million tonnes per year the closure will permanent not temporary.

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      • Posted by Inuk on

        So, in this case where is the Royalties to the Communities that QIA been collecting since 2018??

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  3. Posted by carl jorgensen on

    This problem could have been avoided if the company had stuck to its original proposal of shipping through Steensby Inlet.

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  4. Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

    Jobs lost, income lost, small price to pay for our environment, our environment is and should come first, not that we make money out of it, we eat and clothe out of the land and we need to take care of it.

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    • Posted by You’re joking right? on

      Live off the land? You’re saying the millions of cigarettes smoked in this territory, the constant abuse of pop, chips, other junk foods and The alcohol comes from “the land”. Give me a break.

      The mine was going to pay very high wages for Inuit and this decision has crippled the next generation of work. Narwhal and Caribou won’t pay the bills

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      • Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

        Thanks for the laugh, all your thinking about what you see in a community. You have no idea how much we get off our land, and how it supports us.

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        • Posted by HOW? on

          How do you get it off the land? Are you using Kayaks, Dog Teams and frozen fish sleds tied together with rope made from a seal, with a harpoon you made from a chunk of meteorite?

          Or are you using GPS, high powered rifles, an ATV/Snowmobile/Boat, camp fuel for your Coleman stove, a canvas tent all the metal pots, pans and etc.

          You know the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well… It takes a world to allow you to live the life you do. Contribute to it.

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    • Posted by Anuri on

      For sure i agree, if baffinland don’t get approved for phase 2, people will go back to income, not fair.

  5. Posted by yup on

    Baffinland shot themselves in the foot. should of stayed in the original inlet they shipped out of. they set themselves back 7-10 years with this one.

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    • Posted by Capital on

      Since 2015-2016 capital has been withdrawn for companies seeking to invest several billion dollars in risky endeavours like this. The Steensby Plans were drawn up during the early years of the last decade when commodities where very strong and there was appetite for investors to invest large sums in commodity development. From around 2014 that money has not been available for these kinds of investments. The surest thing a CEO of a Mining company could do to ensure his/her share price collapsed was to go to the market with plans to invest several billion dollars in a mine development. Given this dynamic, there is no way Baffinland could raise the $4+ billion needed to build Steensby. It was proposed in a different time; it’s just not going to happen right now.
      However, you can indeed raise ~$1 billion for projects which offer less execution risk and a quicker payback timeframe. They’d need to get a public listing going and sell equity and raise some debt financing; not a lock, but dooable with support of EDC I am sure. If Baffinland gets approval and successfully builds the line to Milne, and do it relatively on budget, they have a pathway to raise the additional funds to Steensby. Steensby will not happen without Milne. That’s finance 101 right now.
      You only need to look at the Iamgold’s recent Cote Project for an example of what’s happening in the financial markets with respect to Mining Development. Iamgold won shareholder support a few years back for Cote – a “smallish” development expected to cost several hundred million dollars, to be completed in a few years and a good pay back period (ie, the investment will be returned to investors within a few yeras) – unfortunately, as is often the case with mine development, costs exploded and they are now expected to come in at almost $2 billion and Iamgold is scrambling to find investors for debt or equity to help pay the costs.
      Anyway, bottom line, it’s all about the capital and if there is no capital for the project, the project will not happen (unless the Feds back stop it which I see no reason for them to do).

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  6. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    Don’t make pull out the land guardians card again!

    Seriously, the \y didn’t flinch Baffinland, guess we will see how hard you were bluffing. Or not.

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  7. Posted by Brian Willoughby on

    If Baffinland’s intention is to make money,why don’t they play the long game and hire Inuit. Work together.
    QIA could operate the mine, train inuit, strive for 99% Inuit employment. This has been done in the NWT I believe. More money will stay here.
    Both sides can be happy.

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    • Posted by Inuit Hiring on

      Baffinland hires every Inuit that is willing to work. They’ve flown in people from every community. There are not enough Inuit to run the mine at this point. Next?

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    • Posted by QIA on

      QIA does not have the staff to operate a Mine with close to a billion dollars in revenues. I also don’t believe any investor will be eagre to throw in investment dollars unless the Executives have many years of experience running a major mine.

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