Number of laid-off Inuit reduced from 96 to 48, Baffinland says

If six-million-tonne production cap approved, company promises no more Inuit layoffs

The road that runs from Mary River to Milne Inlet, near deposit number one, in a photo taken in 2015. (Baffinland photo)

By Jim Bell

The number of Inuit contract workers laid off from the Mary River iron mine has been reduced, as of Dec. 2, from 96 to 48, Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. told the Nunavut Impact Review Board last week.

The company included this information in a Dec. 6 letter that asks the review board to recommend a one-year extension to Baffinland’s current six-million-tonne-per-year production limit, which expires this Dec. 31.

If Baffinland doesn’t get that extension, their annual production limit will fall back to 4.2 million tonnes a year, as set out in the original version of the project certificate rules that govern the company’s “early revenue phase” for moving iron ore by truck to Milne Inlet.

But if the company does get that permission, it promises not to lay off any more Inuit.

“Moving forward, Baffinland will continue to prioritize Inuit employment at the Mary River Mine and commits not to lay off its Inuit employees while it maintains production at 6 million tonnes per year during the extension period,” the company told the review board.

In taking this position, it appears as if Baffinland has been influenced by the mayors of five affected North Baffin communities.

Those mayors, following community meetings held in late November, all say they support a continuation of the company’s six-million-tonne limit—but only if no more Inuit suffer layoffs.

In a common letter, the mayors of Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Hall Beach, Igloolik and Pond Inlet all say they support the production limit extension “if no more layoffs to members of our communities occur, and members who have been laid off are re-instated and accommodated within the current project.”

When the federal government gave Baffinland permission for the production increase to six million tonnes in 2018, the cap applied only to the years 2018 and 2019.

That’s because regulators, and the company, believed it was likely that Baffinland’s separate and much bigger phase-two production increase request would have been approved by early 2020.

But that’s not going to happen. The NIRB’s final public hearing on the phase-two proposal adjourned abruptly this past Nov. 6 and the review board is now trying to decide when to resume the hearing.

That’s why Baffinland now needs a one-year extension to tide them over until after regulators finish with the phase-two proposal.

“It is now clear that the Phase 2 Development Proposal process will extend beyond December 31, 2019,” Baffinland wrote in its Dec. 6 letter to the review board.

Also in November, Baffinland had announced the layoff of 586 contract workers, including 96 Inuit, who normally would have been employed until December and then re-hired in 2020.

The company now says it’s working with governments to try to help those workers find other jobs.

“Baffinland has been working closely with its contractors and governments to help find the affected workers alternative employment and to date has been successful in reinstating some of the Inuit workers,” the company said.

In 2018, when Baffinland first asked for its production cap to be raised from 4.2 million to six million tonnes, it said it was needed to keep workers employed all year long.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board at first recommended the rejection of that proposed increase.

But after the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the Government of Nunavut interceded on Baffinland’s behalf, the federal government overturned the NIRB’s recommendation and said yes to the idea.

Meanwhile, Baffinland says it needs a decision on the production extension by Feb. 28.

“This timing is necessary in order to allow Baffinland sufficient time to contract vessels for the 2020 shipping season,” Baffinland said.

They also say the NIRB’s consideration of the issue should not create any delays in its consideration of the separate, and much larger, phase-two expansion proposal.

191206-08MN053-Baffinland L... by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Don’t let your guard down on

    Take a look at how mining lobbyists bought the Australian Prime Minister and how they’re pushing Indigenous peoples off their land and ask yourselves if this could happen in Canada if ever we elected a certain right wing government.

    Be careful.

  2. Posted by Joey g on

    This day in age I still cant belive how much racist thoughts are going on ok 96 inuit lost jobs what about the other 480 southerners.
    Jobs posted as iniut only positions and so on and hey white guys you could be laid off now this place sucks I am going to human rights

    • Posted by Non conformist on

      We are an indigenous territory that is looking for self-governance and self-sufficiency. People who come here from out of the territory should realize that we’re not a cookie cutter, Eurocentric, bland, southern province. You’re welcome to stay in the south.

      • Posted by Self-Sufficiency on

        Thank you for the refreshing laughs “Non Conformist”, they made my day.
        Blindfolded people like you will always keep the boarder between the South and the North alive. There never will be self sufficient or self governance Territory unless new leaders are created. This will require attendance in schools and the readiness to continue a post secondary education. Statements to stay in the South are just childish and reflect a very common statement and opinion. Unfortunately, Nunavut would not be able to exist without the people from the South, but maybe one day in the future, it can. Don’t forget, Nunavut is part of Canada, consider it the lucky or unlucky number 13

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      Welcome to Nunatsiaq News, at least they’ve clearly nailed their colours to the wall.

  3. Posted by Gordon Kukkuvak on

    why don’t Government of Nunavut counter attack banned the company up in Nunavut is our own Government too soft to other’s and harsh to your own

    • Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

      Because to the governments, (federal, territorial) it is revenue. Phase 2 was approved long ago where they will ship via Steensby using railcars. The federal icebreakers have been marking the shipping route in north Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait in anticipation. The north Foxe Basin communities (Igloolik and Hall Beach) have already been coerced by DFO to start having quotas for the walrus in the region in anticipation of shipping traffic in the region. We the original peoples and our concerns are trivial when it comes to financial paybacks for the respective governments. We who live here, the land and wildlife are insignificant when it comes financial revenues since we are a “drain” to the economy. It was one of our great cousins to the south (Chief Seattle, reiterated by the late Chief Dan George), who did say that after all the lands, wildlife and waters are gone will we finally realize, we cannot eat money.

      • Posted by Reality strikes on

        Chief Seattle did not say that, this phrase was made up by a white man who was probably a luddite.

  4. Posted by Bribery on

    Sounds like bribery to me.

    • Posted by Ken on

      I have to agree with you, it does sound like bribery, it just doesn’t sound right or ethical.

      We do have to be careful with these mines, these resources once taken are gone for ever and we have to make sure we get as much out of it as possible. As the resources dry up around the world and the technologies improve to work in the arctic we will be seeing more mines up here. We need to get our people educated and trained to get these jobs at the same time protecting the environment and wildlife the best we can.

      For the mines its how well the bottom line does $$. We do not need to rush into things and be lead by the mine, our best interests are worth more to us then the bottom line for the mine.

  5. Posted by Eski Moses on

    Sounds and looks like the Inuit wokers are being used as bargaining chips by both the mining company and the Inuit themselves (NTI & QIA)…

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