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At the end of July, Baffinland issued termination notices to more than 1,100 employees, but they can be rescinded if the shift to six million tonnes is approved, Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman said to Nunatsiaq News in a previous story.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