Northern affairs minister extends timeline for decision on Baffinland expansion

Daniel Vandal wants more time so Inuit have a chance to read review board’s recommendation

In a letter Monday, Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal told Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. that he is giving himself another 90 days to make a decision on the company’s Phase 2 proposal. (File photo by Corey Larocque)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal has given himself 90 more days to make a decision on Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River mine expansion proposal.

The proposal, known as Phase 2, is to build a 110-km railway, increase its annual shipping output from 4.2 million tonnes to 12 million tonnes through the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area and construct an additional dock at the Milne Inlet port. Vandal was originally expected to release his decision by late summer.

On May 13, the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended the proposal be rejected, stating it might cause adverse environmental impacts that can’t be controlled under the company’s current proposal.

Vandal said in a Monday letter to Baffinland’s chief executive officer Brian Penney that the 90-day extension is necessary so Inuit have time to read the report from NIRB, the body that advises the government on the social and economic impacts of development projects in Nunavut.

The Liberal cabinet minister also said the extension will give Inuit more time to consider Baffinland’s current application to ship six million tonnes per year, which is currently before the review board.

Baffinland sent that application to NIRB on May 20 while awaiting Vandal’s decision on Penney’s request for an emergency order allowing the company to ship six million tonnes of iron ore in 2022, which Vandal later denied on June 1.

Baffinland has warned that without approval to ship six million tonnes this year, it would have to lay off hundreds of its employees.

“This extension will provide Inuit and others time to focus their efforts on the current [application], especially given the limited capacity of some groups during the summer months when many Inuit are on the land,” Vandal wrote.

Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman told Nunatsiaq News the company welcomes the news that Vandal is “taking the necessary time needed to learn all the information and meet with all the stakeholder groups involved in order make an informed decision on our Phase 2 application.”

“Baffinland is committed to working with the federal government and all stakeholder groups to do everything possible to avoid the necessity of layoffs and to protect our employees and their communities,” Akman said.

He added that Vandal had sent a second letter on Tuesday to the review board, requesting a hearing on Baffinland’s request to increase its shipping limit to six million tonnes a year be “conducted in an efficient and expeditious manner” and a recommendation made by Aug. 26.

“We have been mining at six million tonnes since 2018. As we have stated previously, without this approval, Baffinland will be forced to drastically reduce our workforce in the fall,” Akman said.




Share This Story

(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Iqaluitmiuta on

    Move on with phase 2 & build roads right across baffin island that way nunavutaks will have ever lasting jobs

  2. Posted by Jimmy on

    Let’s delay this project EVEN longer.
    Lay offs here they come!
    I hope baffinland gets funded to go the other way to steensby to bypass all this nonsense.

    • Posted by Financing out of the question on

      It is impossible for Baffinland to raise the over $4 billion needed to fund Steensby. It has been impossible to do so since 2015. Financial markets are closed to development stage mining companies at this scale. Approval on the route to Milne is the only viable way to obtain new funds, including a mix of new debt and equity, and if successfully built, investors will then likely be at least approachable to consider a larger project such as Steensby.

    • Posted by Pond Inlet Resident on

      I don’t think you recall the inital hearing back in 2012. Igloolik and Hall Beach were adamant that steensby not be used. to the extend they had lawyers and even famous residents backing up that they do not want this in their back yard. You think its hard to get milne? if they even say boo about steensby, i would prepare for a long drawn out, even longer delay, they said absolutely no to steensby.

      • Posted by John on

        I remember the hearings from 2012 and the conclusion. The conclusion was a positive recommendation from NIRB and an approval from the Minister. An IIBA was done with the QIA based on the southern rail project and QIA won an arbitration case against Baffinland indicating that the IIBA is for the southern rail project which is still to occur.

        Baffinland already has the approval to build the rail south. This isn’t up for debate. If everybody obeys the law and the agreements, there shouldn’t be any delays. I remember the 2012 hearings and outcome very well.

  3. Posted by Piitaqanngi on

    Iqaluit has a deep sea port. Why not build that railway to Iqaluit instead of Steensby. Most of Iqaluit supports the project anyways.

    • Posted by Pond Inlet Resident on

      this is as preposterous as some local resident suggesting baffinland fly out the iron ore back on 2009. yes…they did suggest it…they shall remain nameless.

  4. Posted by Aputi on

    Just approve it and make money for Nunavut

  5. Posted by Taxpayer on

    As always, politics is messing with prudent environmental management and the economy here in Nunavut. Minister Vandal is clearly playing tag with the NIRB hoping he is “Not It! “.

    90 days puts the pressure on NIRB to recommend on 6 million tons per year before Vandal has to decide -on his own timetable – on the 12 million ton matter.

    If the NIRB allows 6 million tons before his 90 days are up, he can say no to the 12 million tons without being seen as the worst job killer in Nunavut history that he would, in truth, be. Otherwise, if the NIRB says no to 6 millions tons before his 90 days are up, same thing. He can say no to the 12 million because the operation will be already shut down anyway.

    If he goes against the NIRB on the 12 million ton recommendation while they are being asked to maintain the 6 million, he will take huge flack for interfering in the NIRB process. Alternatively, if he accepts the NIRB rejection of 12 million tons while the NIRB is being asked to maintain 6 million, then it is all on the NIRB to save the existing jobs and contracts.

    All this maneuvering serves only to insulates him from the slings and arrows of his coalition colleague, our anti-development NDP MP and any other criticism instead of doing his paid job under the Nunavut Agreement – deciding on NIRB recommendations.

    Vandals concern about the reading habits of Nunavummuit is a thin excuse. Jobs, contracts, legitimate environmental concerns – these are all irrelevant. It is all political cover your butt time while making a mockery of the Nunavut Agreement.

  6. Posted by Truestory on

    Just another waiting game. Tired of waiting to see if Inuit B.I.M. employees will be laid off. Just approve the 6 million tons for this year. We have families to feed and bills to pay.

  7. Posted by Maybe Someone on

    I love seeing all these pretend Inuit B.I.M. employees in the comments.

    How sad and desperate that stockholders will resort to claiming to be Inuit in the comments.


Comments are closed.