Op-ed: Inuit concerns and protection of environment central to Baffinland expansion plans

Baffinland’s Mary River mine site, on Milne Inlet. (File photo)

By Brian Penney, CEO of Baffinland

Recent events and the public hearings on Baffinland’s proposed expansion of the Mary River project provide an important opportunity to scrutinize the expansion. We understand some people may support it while others don’t, and others are unsure or have questions.

It’s important that everyone has access to accurate information. Over the past six years, we have been in constant dialogue with hamlets, hunter and trapper organizations, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and regulators at all levels through consultation, technical meetings, community roundtables, and other formal and informal meetings, many of which are open to the public.

Extensive written documents have also been filed during this assessment process. Our plans have been closely reviewed by all parties and we have made changes based on this input, which includes direct Inuit feedback.

Baffinland is one of the most environmentally sustainable iron ore operations in the world – it produces very little waste rock, and no chemicals or water are used for processing. We will improve upon this strong performance with Phase 2, where we aim to set new benchmarks in the mining industry.

We understand that harvesting caribou, narwhal, seal and char are important food sources and at the centre of Inuit culture and identity. Preserving and respecting this aspect of Inuit well-being is critical to our planning. Narwhal monitoring shows consistent numbers in Eclipse Sound between 2013 and 2019, with mine operations starting in 2015. The total allowable harvest was increased in 2016, and since that time, the annual average harvest number in Pond Inlet has increased substantially.

We recognize the importance of the North Baffin Island caribou herd and will work with Inuit to protect this valuable resource. We are taking a number of steps as part of the expansion plans, many of which are the direct result of Inuit engagement, such as providing caribou underpasses and designing rail embankments to support caribou crossing.

The Inuit Certainty Agreement, signed in 2020, expands the role of Inuit in monitoring and reviewing operations. Inuit will oversee many forms of monitoring through the Inuit Stewardship Plan, which will include monitoring for changes in culture, resources, land use and social well-being. This monitoring will tie directly into an Adaptive Management Plan, which will enable Inuit to identify additional preventative measures to protect the environment should impacts be greater than predicted.

Baffinland is the largest private sector employer in the Qikiqtani and has directly and indirectly contributed $1.68 billion to Inuit businesses and communities since 2015. With Phase 2, Baffinland is expected to contribute even more over the mine life: $4.5 billion to government and Inuit organizations, including roughly $1 billion to the QIA, $1.4 billion to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., $679 million to the Government of Nunavut, and $1.5 billion to the Government of Canada.

Baffinland will also spend up to $15 million to build or enhance child-care facilities in Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Igloolik and Sanirajak. We will also support a child-care subsidy for Baffinland Inuit employees who reside in Nunavut, a study of Pond Inlet’s country food, the hunters and trappers organizations, and make milestone payments to QIA totalling $45 million over the first five years of Phase 2. Royalties paid to the QIA will increase from 1.19 per cent to 3 per cent, a portion of which will be provided by QIA to North Baffin communities through community direct benefits.

Baffinland aims to set new standards in the Canadian mining industry for community oversight and benefit sharing. Our plan reflects years of engagement between Baffinland, Inuit, and all levels of government. Baffinland will work with all parties to deliver positive contributions for years to come, while protecting and respecting the environment.

Brian Penney is the chief executive officer of Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by commentator99 on

    This is less like opinion and more like advertisement. Nunatsiaq should be getting advertising revenues from a vanity piece like this.

    If they have so dang much money to give away they should spend some of it to solve their dust problem before attempting to expand.

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    • Posted by Northerner on

      If you would of paid attention to what Phase 2 actually is you would know that the project addresses almost all dust issues. Everyone just assumes its a permit for 12M tons and nothing else…..

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    • Posted by A little research helps on

      I’m all for being concerned about the dust problem. It’s hazardous to the environment, wildlife, communities and workers. I’ve read the proposal for phase two and found that dust mitigation is a major component in phase two. The world’s largest indoor crusher was custom built and shipped to Milne Port in 2020, there was a lot of coverage in the news about this extreme undertaking. The railroad will be transporting jaw crushed, large dimensional ore in heavy rail cars to this crusher. The current trailers Baffinland uses are too lightly built to perform this task. The jaw crushed ore produces significantly less dust than cone crushed (fine) ore in production and transport. The railroad alone will make a significant impact on dust reduction. To keep dust production down and to create a finished product before it is shipped, cone crushing will be performed at Milne Port, indoors, with various forms of air filtration and dust collection systems. Many other mines use water to mitigate dust, this has many drawbacks. Large settling ponds would be needed and these can create more environmetal problems than the airborne dust originally did. The other issue is temperature, Baffinland is too far north with too many months below freezing temperatures to even consider water as an option. On the surface, phase two just appears to be an expansion to double Baffinland’s production, but if you actually get beyond the cover, there are many plans to actually reduce the environmental impact of the mine. The expansion may be a positive change to the current problems existing at the mine and port.

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  2. Posted by snapshot on

    Inuit Certainty Agreement signed by QIA and Baffinland without any community support.

    Two organizations not to be trusted with our land, animals, and future.

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    • Posted by VOTE on

      If you want change in QIA, VOTE!! If you think QIA holds elections that are not accessible, speak up so you can vote!
      If you think you can handle the job, then become a candidate!
      Mumilaaq Qaqqaq did and she became an MP at 25.
      The royalties from the Inuit Certainty Agreement can improve the quality of life for thousands of Baffin island residents, especially in the northern hamlets. QIA has the power to do this and if they don’t, vote in those who will.

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    • Posted by con on

      you forgot to mention
      MR mayor of Pond Inlet

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  3. Posted by Steph P on

    Brian Penny, we see right through your glass house. Looking forward to the hail storm.

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    • Posted by Northerner on

      No matter how many facts you present, some people are too blind or to manipulated to even see.

      Hate Baffinland all you want but what is presented here will significantly improve the quality of life for Baffin Island residents. That is what you should care about. Legal contracts are signed, its not a matter of believing. What he is saying is written on a legal contract.

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