QIA wants more talk with Baffinland over threat to mothball Mary River mine
Mining company CEO sent internal letter on April 30
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association hopes Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. will reach out with more information about its plans to scale back operations at its Mary River iron mine, says its executive director, Jeremiah Groves.
QIA, which leases its land to the mine, has received and responded to a recent letter from Baffinland, Groves told Nunatsiaq News.
He said the organization hopes Baffinland will “engage QIA to better understand the contents of [this] letter and implications for the Mary River project.”
The letter contained much the same information as Penney’s April 30 letter to employees and contracting staff on site, said Baffinland’s manager of stakeholder relations, Heather Smiles.
Penney’s letter said shareholders wouldn’t invest more money in a proposed expansion at Mary River, because of delays in the review process and opposition to the expansion.
Penney also said forecasted reductions in iron ore prices in future years could cause additional financial losses, so the company would “begin taking a series of steps to reduce costs and curtail spending.”
To date, the benefits to the QIA from the Mary River mine, located on north Baffin Island, have been substantial: the Inuit impact and benefit agreement pumps millions annually into the organization.
The Oakville, Ont.-based mining company wants to double output at the mine, as well as build a 110-kilometre railway from Mary River to Milne Inlet and increase ship transits to 176 each season. The proposal is making its way through a hearing with the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
In March, QIA’s board of directors passed a unanimous decision to not support the proposed expansion in its current form.
QIA still wants to continue working with Baffinland to improve the project so it’s “consistent with an Inuit vision of balancing environmental impacts together with economic opportunities,” Groves said.
As for Baffinland, Smiles said the company wants more support from the QIA and others in the region. In February, hunters blockaded the mine site to protest its environmental impacts.
Their blockade ended after a week when Baffinland sought an injunction in Nunavut court.
“We’re are going to continue to work with all of our community members and all of the stakeholders to find a path forward, and we’re very much keen to do that,” Smiles said.
The mining company needs approval for its proposed expansion, she said, and it wants “more clarity” about when the hearing into that expansion will conclude. The hearing was temporarily suspended in April, when the COVID-19 outbreak hit Iqaluit.
With no end to the permitting process in view, Baffinland has decided to ship equipment it had leased for the mine expansion off-site this summer.
“The costs to send it off and potentially return it in a year will not surpass the costs we’re currently paying to have it sitting there in a year,” Smiles said.
“There are all these costs associated with it sitting there, so we have to make these decisions now because the sealift is when the sealift is. This was a logical course.”