Northern Affairs Minister mum on Baffinland during northern tour

Daniel Vandal takes 11-day tour through northern Canada, making announcements including $1.2 million for geothermal development in Nunavut

Federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, seen speaking at a 2021 press conference, avoided commenting on a request from Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. to increase the amount of iron ore it is allowed to ship from its Mary River mine. The minister was in Cambrdige Bay on Tuesday, where he announced funding for geothermal research. (Photo by Corey Larocque)

By David Lochead

Updated on Thursday, Aug. 11 at 12:25 p.m.

Federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal said he won’t talk much about Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s shipping increase request until a discussion between the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Baffinland have concluded.

“There’s been a lot of work done over the last two months and that work continues,” Vandal said of the Nunavut Impact Review Board process to consider allowing Baffinland to increase the amount of iron ore the company is allowed to ship from its Mary River mineship to six million tonnes a year from 4.2.

The company has been shipping six million tonnes a year since 2018, under a temporary permit put in place while its proposed Mary River mine expasnion was considered by the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

At the end of July, Baffinland issued termination notices to more than 1,100 employees, but they can be rescinded if the shift to six million tonnes is approved, Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman said to Nunatsiaq News in a previous story.

Without the increased shipping limit, the mining company will run out of work for its employees in the fall and will have to let them go, the company has said.

Baffinland continues to meet with stakeholders, communities and hamlets to hear their comments about the six-million-tonne permit, Akman said in an email to Nunatsiaq News Wednesday.

“It is our hope that the expedited NIRB process, which the Minister of Northern Affairs has encouraged and asked to be wrapped up by August 26th, will result in a mutually beneficial agreement and can prevent employee terminations,” Akman said.

Qikiqtani Inuit Association was not able to respond in time for this publication.

Vandal’s response on Baffinland came while visiting Cambridge Bay to announce the federal government will be providing $1.2 million over three years for research on the potential of geothermal energy in Nunavut.

Climate change is a large factor in this funding, as the North is warming three times faster than further South, Vandal said.

“All three territories are powered by diesel, and we’re looking for alternatives,” Vandal said.

“Geothermal has that potential.”

The project will look at the feasibiliy of geothermal and waste energy storage in Baker Lake.

Geothermal energy comes from below the Earth’s surface. The energy is captured by the heat coming from the water and heat.

The below-surface potential for energy in Cambridge Bay and Resolute Bay will also be surveyed, the federal government’s release stated.

With the North already warming faster than the rest of the world, the reason for funding preliminary research is because it provides good data, Vandal said.

“We want to make sure [an energy source] is sustainable, it’s reliable, and it does what it’s supposed to do,” he added.

“That starts with good data.”

Local jobs will be provided for the research, Vandal said, adding that he does not know the specific number of jobs but that information will come out shortly.

The federal government is partnering with the Qulliq Energy Corporation in implementing the project.

Correction: This article has been updated from a previous version to relfect that Baffinland issued termination notices to 1,110 employees instead of layoff notices.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Truestory on

    Just approve it Minister. We Inuit workers at B.I.M., do NOT want to collect any welfare cheques. Or move from Nunavut. As we are Nunavummiut.

  2. Posted by Kevon Looney on

    bro can you proofread these before you post, there are 2 paragraphs literally repeating each other

    • Posted by Looking in on

      There are also two.atories here, Vandals decision on the mine and geothermal. What a mess.

    • Posted by OOPS on

      Hey Bert, I think the link you posted is referring to this study (not a previous one) unless there is another link to look at?

  3. Posted by Pork Pie on

    I don’t think the Minister wants to be the one to make this decision, and we shouldn’t want him too either (for good reason).

    In the provinces jurisdiction over mining and land rights falls to provincial governments. In other words, they decide their own fate and live with the consequences. The thought that Ottawa would decide for them would lead to some very colourful outbursts of separatist rhetoric.

    If Nunavut wants to mature as a political space, it needs take control and, despite not having the powers of a province, act like one anyway.

    In the end it should be our own leadership that makes this decision, not the Federal Government. I believe the Minister knows that, I believe the PM knows that, I believe they are both waiting, like many of us are, to see if our leadership will stand up and unequivocally say “Yes, we want this project approved” or, not…

    To no one’s surprise that has yet to happen and I’m sure no one is surprised by it, but we should be disappointed. We should want to know what they think and we should expect them to let us, and Ottawa, know.

    • Posted by What’s a ‘Leadership’? on

      Makes you wonder what does our PREMIER think? Is he hiding away somewhere? Why won’t he say anything PUBLICALLY? Are you afraid, PJ? What kind of LEADERSHIP is that anyway?

  4. Posted by Contrarian on

    What kind of stuffing announcements are these, no jobs, just dictatorship in action

  5. Posted by John on

    Seriously!!! His big good news announcement is that he is going to spend $1.2M over 3 years ($400K per year). $400K each year is probably enough for 4 people and a drill rig to fly up for the summer, spend some time in Baker Lake drill two holes each summer and then enough money for a consultant from the south to write up a report at the end that says that there is limited geothermal capability because there is 500m of permafrost. If this is his offset to true investment from Baffinland into long-term job creations then he really doesn’t care about the north.

  6. Posted by Umingmak on

    The Liberal Party is such a joke. They never answer questions. They never do anything for the north. They just don’t care. For them, the north is a convenient political prop at election time. That’s it. After the election, they don’t even pretend to care.

  7. Posted by Dan Stannus on

    I’ve been following this story from a distance, it’s demoralizing to watch. I wish y’all could get organized. Get party memberships and support premiers and cabinets that are principled, and that only have your best interests in mind. Be vocal with your friends, family, and colleagues. It’s taken me 36 years to realize how few people it takes to make a big difference, if they are principled and determined, quit their wingeing, and take some bold decisive action. Shame on your premier for standing by and letting this many people get laid off from good jobs, when Iron Ore is at $109 USD. Have you guys bought federal conservative party memberships yet? it costs $10, and you might find a leadership candidate that is in favour of industry development. My personal favourites are Poilievre and Lewis, I think they’d be very grateful for your support, and would give you theirs in return. Even if you think that all politicians are corrupt, we can at least agree that the ones who got us here need to be punished for their wrongdoing.

    • Posted by John on

      Seriously!!! Polliviere??? In 2008 he said “that former residential school students need a stronger work ethic, not more compensation dollars”. After seeing the political fallout from such a horrible comment, he of course made his apologies, but it shows what his true thoughts are on indigenous people. I totally agree that politicians who make errors like that should be punished for their wrongdoing and not rewarded by electing them as Prime Minister.

      • Posted by Soothsayer on

        People can change, believe it or not. At present Polliviere stands a very good chance of becoming PM, you may need to adjust to that.


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