Recommendation on Baffinland shipping increase due just days before terminations begin

Review board decision scheduled between Sept. 19 and 23; 1st round of terminations starts Sept. 25

Nunavut Impact Review Board chairperson Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq announced Thursday the board “intends to issue” its recommendation on Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s shipping increase application between Sept. 19 and 23. (File photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Nunavut Impact Review Board will not deliver a recommendation on Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposal to increase its shipping limit until the week before the company is set to begin job terminations at its Mary River iron mine.

The board “intends to issue” its recommendation the week of Sept. 19 to 23, chairperson Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq stated in a letter released Thursday evening.

That’s just days before the first of Baffinland’s two rounds of terminations takes effect. They are scheduled for Sept. 25 and Oct. 11. After the board releases its recommendation, federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal would still need to approve or deny Baffinland’s application.

The company is preparing to let go 1,300 employees who work at its Mary River iron mine, located on northern Baffin Island, if it isn’t given permission to ship six million tonnes of iron ore this year.

Baffinland had been working under a temporary permit to ship that much ore, but that permit expired at the end of December.

As it stands now, Baffinland is permitted to ship 4.2 million tonnes of iron ore this year, which the company says is not enough to make operations at the mine economically viable.

Baffinland chose not to apply for a permit extension in December because it has been waiting for a decision on a larger proposal to expand operations at the mine, which the company had expected to receive by then.

Instead, the company urged federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal in May to direct the board to approve an extension to its shipping permit through an emergency order. Vandal rejected that request on June 1.

Two days later, Baffinland gave notice to the territory’s labour office, saying it intends to terminate staff at the mine and at the company’s Nunavut office.

Since then, the company has applied for the shipping increase, and NIRB has been reviewing the request. Vandal has asked the board to treat the application as a priority.

NIRB hosted a community roundtable in Pond Inlet on Aug. 16, where residents from the affected communities, for and against the shipping increase, could ask the company questions and express their concerns.

The comment period for the application closed Aug. 19, and NIRB announced its decision timeline Thursday evening.

The tight timeline is “concerning for hundreds of families dependent on the Mary River project for their economic security,” said Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

“We understand the NIRB feels it needs more time to make the decision but there are more than 1,100 employees, including over 200 Nunavummiut and their families who are waiting to see what their future holds.”

Akman said an application for the company to ship six million tonnes per year has been approved twice in the past and is receiving lots of support from hamlets and elders.

Kaluraq’s letter acknowledges the tight timeline could be a concern.

“While the board understands that this timeline is greater than what was requested by the minister and urged by Baffinland and several parties,” wrote Kaluraq, “the board has balanced the urgency of the decision with [its] obligation to conduct a thorough assessment.”

Vandal’s spokesperson, Kyle Allen, said the Liberal government is optimistic workers will not be terminated.

“While it would be premature to speculate on the timing required to review the recommendation from the board, and determine whether the duty to consult has been met, all relevant ministers are seized with this issue and will issue a determination as soon as can reasonably be expected,” he wrote in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

— With files from Corey Larocque

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by NBK on

    Wow, this sounds like revenge on the part of NIRB. Let’s play with the lives of 1,300 people which will extend to family members that will be affected. I would have hoped NIRB taken the higher road and work towards a solution. This will hurt Nunavut if the lay-offs occur.

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    • Posted by Observer on

      NIRB was in Pond Inlet to hear from the community on August 16th, which is about 4 weeks to when they say they’re going to issue the report. I would think you’d want to see how that compares to other projects they’ve had to look at before making a judgement, right? So, to the Internet!

      The first time Baffinland asked for an increase in their production was in 2018. A community meeting was held in Pond Inlet on July 12, and NIRB issued their report on August 31, a month and a half later.
      (NIRB said “no”, by the way. The minister of Northern Affairs overruled them.)

      NIRB had a meeting in Rankin Inlet in the middle of May 2021, for the Meliadine waterline amendment. Decision came out at the end of July, so about 2.5 months.

      You can look up others yourself, but putting out a decision only a few weeks after a hearing or community roundtable isn’t normal for them. They usually take longer. Putting this decision out faster than they normally have in the past doesn’t seem like taking “revenge”. It looks more like them trying to get a decision out as soon as they can.

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  2. Posted by modern times on

    Just approve it. we need jobs, we need employment, less welfare. i wish this were south and i could work there. I’m an Inuk, in the North Baffin.

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    • Posted by Follow Your Wishes on

      You can work in the south, there’s nothing stopping you.

      Go where the opportunities are.

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    • Posted by Priorities on

      “Nunavut Housing Corp. is partnering with Iqaluit-based, Inuit-owned NCC Development Ltd. to develop housing units across Nunavut.” Presumably they intend to try to build the 1000 houses that PJ’s government committed to building in the next 3 years and 2 months.
      .
      That should create lots of jobs in every community in Nunavut. You won’t have to leave home to get a job. You won’t have to be away from your family. You will have to be able to measure accurately, saw a straight line, and drive nails without bending them. Any extra skills are a bonus.
      .
      Shut down all the mines for a few years. Nunavut needs houses more than it needs to send iron ore, gold, and diamonds south.

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      • Posted by I see hiccups on

        Shut down the mines for a few years? Where do you think these organizations are getting money? Thin air? Money into these organizations are presumably (since you seem to like that word) from donations, GN and Federal.

        Granted, there are lots of great people paying taxes in the north, but I believe that a substantial amount of it comes from taxes from companies. So by telling (from what you say) mines to close up shop, do you think we’re just owed money from the GN and Federal Government? We’ve been waiting years for resources and magically they’re just going to start issuing more money than they already have?

        You’re living in a dream world and its just not going to happen. Pull the plug on major developments and corporations, you might as well pull the plug on any of our development and we’ll be back to status quo. And just for a FYI, our status quo isn’t good.

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      • Posted by Taxpayer on

        How it generally works is that people with good paying long term jobs buy and build houses in Canada, not government agencies. Over half of all Canadians own and live in their own homes and Inuit in Nunavut should demand and expect no less. Sure, an option is to get a job building public houses. That job is seasonal and may only last a couple of years. You may even get allocated a new unit to live in. What then? You would still not have enough money to buy or build your own house. And now your are unemployed again, pinning your hopes on the miners forgetting all the money they lost the last time they tried something up here. To top it off, you will have placed yourself at the mercy of other people deciding where and if you get to live in a unit, and, and also have to rely and trust they can properly maintain your living condition. Well, as we all know, you can’t throw a rock in Nunavut without hitting an anxious, molded out, and dissatisfied public housing tenant. 1,000 housing units for Nunavut is disaster relief. The disaster is chronic intergenerational poverty. The status quo is perfect for our Elites as they maintain their power as the sugar daddies to the have nots. Its just not ok if you want to set it up for the rest to get ahead.

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  3. Posted by Baffinland Worker on

    It’s easy to talk when you have to make a decision as the chairman of a committee and you don’t have to worry about yourself because your salary is paid by the government (taxpayers). As a recommendation board, you all should be ashamed of yourself by dragging this so long and putting extremely mich tension on people future. I really hope you all get kicked out in the next provincial election!!!

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  4. Posted by Truestory on

    The pressure is on. As a parent and a Baffinland employee, I sure hope you make the right decision to approve the 6 million tons requested by Baffinland. If we get laid off, and some of us employees will not be eligible for E.I. benefits. We will have to return to Income Support. If that happens, we would have to wait for about 2 months before we’re eligible for Income Support. Hear our voices also as you have heard the “land huggers”.

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  5. Posted by Frankly on

    Baffinland got nirb by the balls on this one. Not for inuit to decide either.

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  6. Posted by Do we even have a premier? on

    I sometimes wonder where our elected leadership stands on this issue, don’t you?

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    • Posted by Amused on

      That’s a good question to ask the premier, isn’t it? It was when he was president of QIA that a big part of this mess started with QIA flip-flopping on whether they supported the mine or not, and people in the communities getting upset and saying QIA wasn’t talking to them.

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