Nunavut board moves on stalled Mary River assessment
NIRB to decide on public hearing following conference in March
The Nunavut Impact Review Board’s stalled final hearing on Baffinland’s phase two expansion proposal for its Mary River iron mine could resume after a special pre-hearing conference set for Iqaluit this March.
The review board conveyed this information to stakeholders in a letter sent on Jan. 7, fulfilling a commitment they made in mid-December.
In it, the board said they’ve scheduled meetings in Iqaluit on the issue that will stretch over a period of almost two weeks this March:
• Technical meetings from March 16 to March 20
• A community roundtable on March 23 and March 24
• A pre-hearing conference on March 25
All of those gatherings are to be held at the Frobisher Inn’s Koojesse room.
The communities of Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Hall Beach, Resolute Bay, Grise Fiord, Clyde River, Arctic Bay and Iqaluit are invited to send up to three delegates each.
It’s after that March 25 pre-hearing conference, or “PHC,” that the board will make a decision on when to resume the public hearing that adjourned in disarray this past Nov. 6.
“Following the PHC, the Board will issue a PHC decision which will provide direction to parties regarding the continuation of the Public Hearing,” the board’s letter said.
In its phase two plan, Baffinland proposes a 110-kilometre railway from Mary River to Milne Inlet, an increase in ore production from six million to 12 million tonnes per year, and up to 176 transits by ore-carrying vessels.
A public hearing on that plan started this past Nov. 2 in Iqaluit, but did not complete its work after participants became embroiled in disputes over the precise nature of Baffinland’s proposal, as well as the quality of the information the company was providing on the environmental impacts of the proposed railway and marine shipping.
As a result, the hearing fell further and further behind on its agenda each day.
And on Nov. 6, Aluki Kotierk, the president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., moved that the hearing be put on hold for a period of nine months to one year.
That, Kotierk said, would provide enough time for the company to provide answers to various questions and translate important materials.
The NIRB responded by cancelling a planned two-day community roundtable meeting that had been scheduled for Pond Inlet.
Later, it promised to set meetings in March aimed at helping stakeholders sort out all the unresolved issues left over from last November.
That appears to be consistent with a proposal Baffinland made to resume the public hearing around April 18, after the Easter weekend, following pre-hearing meetings in February or March.
However, the NIRB has yet to rule on how long the public hearing’s adjournment will last and now says it will wait until after the March 25 conference.
The abrupt adjournment of the public hearing last November sent shock waves throughout the Qikiqtani region.
Because Baffinland’s 2020 construction schedule was thrown off course, the company announced the early layoff of 586 contract workers, 96 of whom are Inuit, just before Christmas.
Later, the number of laid off Inuit workers was whittled down to only 48.
Meanwhile, the company still awaits the review board’s recommendation on a separate request to extend its six-million-tonnes-per-year production cap into 2020.
That legal limit expired on Dec. 31, and the company wants the one-year extension to maintain iron ore production at current levels for another year.
The mayors of Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Hall Beach, Igloolik and Pond Inlet all say they support extending that production limit, as long as no more Inuit are laid off.