Review board says no to Baffinland

Recommendation against Mary River mine expansion ends nearly four-year review process; final decision lies with federal government

Nunavut Impact Review Board chairperson Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq said Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s mine expansion should not be approved, in the board’s recommendation released Friday evening. (File photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Nunavut Impact Review Board has recommended federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal reject Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed Mary River mine expansion, saying it has the potential to cause damage to marine mammals, caribou and other wildlife.

The project could also possibly affect wildlife and fish habitats outside of the territory — negative impacts that cannot be “adequately prevented, mitigated, or adaptively managed” under Baffinland’s current plans, said board chairperson Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq.

“[The expansion] has the potential to result in significant adverse ecosystemic effects on marine mammals and fish, caribou and other terrestrial wildlife,” she said in the board’s announcement.

“And these effects could lead to associated significant adverse effects on Inuit harvesting, culture, land use and food security in Nunavut.”

The board released its decision Friday evening, ending a four-year review process that saw a public hearing dragged out between 2019 and 2021 due to COVID-19 and scheduling problems.

Vandal’s office now has 90 days to review the board’s recommendation and approve or deny the project.

In a statement released shortly after the board’s announcement, Baffinland said it was surprised and disappointed by the decision.

“Our … proposal is based on years of in-depth study and detailed scientific analysis, and has considerable local support based on years of consultation with Inuit and local communities,” said chief executive officer Brian Penney.

“We will be asking the federal government to consider all of the evidence and input and to approve the … application with fair and reasonable conditions.”

The Oakville-based mining company currently trucks six million tonnes of iron ore per year from the Mary River mine to Milne Inlet, and ships it out through the Tallurutiup Imanga conservation area.

It wanted to double that annual ore output to 12 million tonnes, construct an additional dock at the port, and build a 110-km railway from the mine to Milne Inlet.

Since the first hearing was suspended in 2019, Baffinland has made changes to its initial proposal to try to gain support from hamlets, and from hunters and trappers organizations in affected communities.

Some of these changes included a gradual increase to the 168 ore carrier transits per shipping season, a commitment not to ship until landfast ice breaks, and to pay for daycares or community garages.

Prior to Friday’s announcement, Baffinland said if it gained approval it expected the mine would pay out at least $2.4 billion to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association in royalties over the life of the mine, and generate $680 million in revenue for the Government of Nunavut.

If rejected, Baffinland said, it might have to temporarily shut down the mine.

On social media, Vandal thanked the board and participants for their work and said he will review the report with his team.

“A decision will be taken following appropriate due diligence and comprehensive analysis, including whether the duty to consult has been met or not,” he wrote.

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(59) Comments:

  1. Posted by John smith on

    I am pro-mining but I believe this was the right decision. BaffinLand went about this 5he wrong way trying to blackmail the Inuit saying approve this or the mine closes. Also they haven’t done enough to compromise on the environmental issues. This will hurt Inuit who work for Baffin but certainly won’t hurt the environment. I was never comfortable with Baffin and their environmental record. Companies need to be go step by step with Inuit and get their buy in. This operation was too large and affecting the water nearby.

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  2. Posted by Ragin Ronnie on

    There is no doubt that this will have lingering affects for any other corporation seeking to business with Nunavut. A company would almost have to find gold lying on the ground for it to be worthwhile.

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    • Posted by John Smith on

      I don’t agree. Plenty of other mines In Nunavut. This one had too many questions with such a huge operation proposed.

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      • Posted by 5Nickels on

        I know of only 2 other mines in Nunavut both gold mines, both based on the continent not the Arctic Archipelago. Neither has the impact on marine wild life that Baffinland has

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        • Posted by John smith on

          Agree. I believe there are diamond mines too in Nunavut. But yes what Baffinland was proposing was monstrous and it’s affect on marine wildlife was too extreme in my view.

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    • Posted by listener on

      not true. the expense to the population was not worth the employment rate. simple

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      • Posted by Plastic Tree on

        Easy to say that, what was the price then?

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        • Posted by Ponder on

          Easy to reply. Approx. 50 people in 2 communities have work there. With rail lines they won’t need drivers anymore ( most of the jobs there now). So less than 50 future jobs in exchange for all your land’ and marine mammals.

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          • Posted by Plastic Tree on

            Is that all you can see in the future for Inuit at the mine, truck drivers and nothing more?

            And this hyperbole around “all the land and all the marine animals” is well, a little hyperbolic, don’t you think?

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            • Posted by Ponder on

              Not at all. There are janitors too in that number btw. If the training facility was ever constructed in the first place then there would be other jobs, but that is not the cast. Bim already decided what inuit participation is at the mine, as it shows still today.

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            • Posted by Nerdy on

              It is so frustrating to see people stopping the big wheels of progress in a modern civilisation just like if we were in the time of basic ignorant and greedy CAVE MAN

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      • Posted by Numbers game on

        How many Inuit and southerners will lose their jobs when the mine goes into care and maintenance? Shutting down this mine will only cause the youth to head south and those that remain will have difficulty providing for themselves and their families. Plenty of other mines in Nunavut? How many open job postings is that? Enough to employ all Inuit losing their jobs at Baffinland in the next year or so? Probably not even close to 5%.

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        • Posted by John K on

          At this point I think it’s probably better for our youth if they do leave. Between decisions like this and our hamfisted fumbling of education we’re doing our kids a disservice by making them live here.

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    • Posted by Mining realist on

      If the cleanest iron ore extraction in the world isn’t an option then how could gold mining be feasible in Nunavut? Baffinland has no tailings ponds and no significant threats to permanently pollute the surrounding environment. All waste is continuously shipped south on sealift at great expense and only inert materials are buried on site with constant environmental monitoring. If an iron mine is forced into care and maintenance due to threatening wildlife with increased traffic, how could a gold mine with massive cyanide tainted tailings ponds operate?

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    • Posted by Jasper on

      Wrong. This mine expansion was dead from the start. It has nothing to do with other possible mines opening up. The process worked. I still think Nunavut is very pro-mining. Baffin screwed the pooch from the start.

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  3. Posted by Jo on

    Four years. All that expense. All that travel, time, and energy. Regardless of whether you support the decision, that timeline and that process is unacceptable. Maybe we need to come up with a more streamlined process?

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    • Posted by Well on

      Maybe we should look into why it took so long before we start talking about gutting regulatory processes.

      First, everything was delayed because the hearings were adjourned in 2019, based on a motion from NTI. At that point it was pretty clear that Baffinland’s EIS was deficient, so NTI wanted to give them more time to resolve concerns.

      Then a few months later the pandemic began, causing further delays.

      Baffinland failed to make any major improvements in the time off.

      So it’s not a complicated regulatory process that is to blame. It’s a proponent that didn’t do it’s homework, and a global pandemic.

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    • Posted by Do Work on

      the process is proponent driven. do the work, provide the info, and the process is very clear and things move forward predictably. the process dragged on because the information needed was not provided when it was required, and the current project’s impacts were not well understood before asking to expand. this shows the system does what it is supposed to.

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    • Posted by Observer on

      Pay attention to what happened. The final hearing started in November 2019, but then NTI and other parties ask it to be stopped. It was supposed to resume in March 2020, but then COVID hit. They managed to get it resumed in January 2021, but there was so much information being presented, they couldn’t get it all in in two weeks, so they continued the hearing in April 2021, but then COVID hit Iqaluit and they had to stop the hearing again, and it was November before they could be completed.

      Without COVID, they would have finished in 2020.

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      • Posted by Excuses on

        If you look at all the press releases, NIRB used every excuse in the book to extend these hearings. They could have easily wrapped things up years ago but wanted to drag it out along as possible for a rejection. The only differences between this decision and the Steensby expansion is that Baffinland managed to hold on to the majority of its investors all this time and then gets a recommendation to reject anyway. If the investors had walked like they did with the Steensby process, NIRB would have recommended to approve the expansion because it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. When it comes to mining, Nunavut is being viewed as hostile territory by most investors now.

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        • Posted by Bemused on

          So, please, educate everyone on how things could have gone faster. Since it’s apparently so obvious how it was delayed, clearly it must be equally obvious how it could have gone faster.

          Don’t be shy. Share with the class.

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  4. Posted by Go home on

    Go Mine down south. We don’t want you on my land

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    • Posted by Oliphant on

      Delusional to think you speak for ‘we’ because you see the land as ‘yours.’ But it’s not ‘your’ land at all. The concept is an abstraction at the individual level; the ‘we’ ‘me’ nexus falls apart when you consider how many other ‘we’s’ want the mine to proceed. How to explain this corruption of mind and logic?

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    • Posted by You Want What You Don’t Give on

      You want the iron for all the things metal in your life but you won’t give any.

      You want the food in your belly but you won’t manage your animals properly.

      You want the creature comforts of modern life but you won’t make any of them.

      You want your kids to grow up as strong independent leaders but you don’t teach them to be ones.

      You want and want but never give.

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    • Posted by Truestory on

      Guess you like hand outs from the feds. Or maybe living off your kin. Get a life.

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    • Posted by Property baron on

      Wow, your backyard is huge!

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  5. Posted by Broken record on

    If everyone is so worried about the environment, marine mammals, and fish stock around Baffinland. Then I think Baffin fisheries should also be shut down also. They should not be able to have the largest factory freezing fishing vessel in Canada. That in itself is going to do damage to fish stocks and marine mammals around Greenland and Labrador. If people don’t want to mine because of the impact it will have on the land, then I think the exuberant amount of fish Baffin fisheries will take out of the water will have a huge impact on marine life and marine mammals. If you’re not in favour of mining the land to create jobs for the people of Nunavut because it will impact your land, then I think the fishery that impacts other peoples waters should be condemned for the same reasons.

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    • Posted by Take a look on

      What do the Nuluujaaq Land Guardians have to say aboutBaffin fisheries? They were very concerned about commercial ventures affecting wildlife numbers. Oh wait, Baffin fisheries and the Land Guardians share some of the same members. Hmmmmm.

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      • Posted by John K on

        I’ve read their filings. They’re only concern is getting their fingers in the right pockets.

        Baffinland wouldn’t open their pockets further than they already had so we’re going to kill clean mining in Nunavut.

        I hope we all like Chinese owned scorched earth resource extraction.

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  6. Posted by Beleaver on

    Looks like P.J.’s ICA just went south! QIA would have taken the money that was meant for North Baffin and North Baffin would have to apply for funding anyways. Good on NIRB to side with Inuit.

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    • Posted by You be leaving? on

      Thank you for reiterating what the real issue is. Perhaps the belief that QIA is not distributing mining royalties to the Northern communities carries merit as many have this belief. After all, it was the reason why the mine was held hostage previously and QUK was also created (although we have yet to see any effect). Unfortunately, this is also one of the main drivers of opposition to the mine. Opposition to the mine expansion has been extremely effective will eventually shut the mine and QIA will have no royalties to distribute. This will severely damage the association and may cause its downfall. NTI will suffer slightly but other projects will sustain its stronghold in Nunavaut. After QIA falters, QUK believes it will gain power but further investment in Nunavut mining will be non-existent as Baffinland’s phase 2 approval is widely seen as a litmus test for Nunavut mining investment. Federal government funding would be the only option to restart mining but it will only be enough for the Southern politicians to claim they are supporting North Baffin, not enough to actually restart production mining and the thousands of jobs that come with it. Nunavut’s GDP will shrink by more than 20% and investors will be hands off for at least a decade. Food insecurity, housing problems and unemployment will continue to plague the most vulnerable while the rich will profit from guiding foreign trophy hunters to kill off what’s left of Arctic wildlife or over fish the limited stocks of northern waters. My sympathies are with the residents of the North Baffin hamlets, they have been put in an impossible situation.

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      • Posted by Let them suffer on

        NTI and QIA have been receiving royalties since the mine opened but never invested nor built infrastructure in North Baffin communities so let them suffer!

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        • Posted by suffer? Nah they just watch their ppl suffer on

          Given the amount they’ve amassed , losinng out on this , isn’t going it cause these birthright organizations much stress

          Some accountability or designated contributions, of significant amount , to what the people —Inuit in their region, want their royalties invested in, might go a long way

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  7. Posted by Froggy on

    Now we see what the Fed’s have to say.

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Hard to see Vandal going against the wishes of the Board the communities and the RIA in this case.

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  8. Posted by I wonder on

    It’s not about a mine, it’s about having outsiders in Nunavut. This xenophobia is bringing Nunavut back into the stone age. If this was an inuit-owned mine, it would have been approved instantly.

    Guess BaffinLand and other mines will just keep looking for other places to mine iron so that inuit can keep having metal for their snowmobiles and boats that require iron. I heard alaska is very much so open for business.

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  9. Posted by Doug Stern on

    Oakville based company? Arcelormittal, worlds biggest steel company, bought Baffinland for $590,000,000 in 2010 for what is concidered 100 years worth of iron ore mining for Europe. For them to threaten closure if they don’t get a railroad is laughable.

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    • Posted by Do some research on

      Oakville based, 72% owned by Nunavut Iron Ore, majority share holder is a Texas based resource company. 28% owned by Arcelormittal. Share holders jointly have a lot of pull but all decisions come from Oakville.

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  10. Posted by George Wahl on

    The original basis of approval for this project was for a port at Steensby Inlet on the west coast of Baffin Island. Milne Inlet has been known by the Canadian Government as a unique narwhale breeding site since the 1960’s when the Federal Government did their first studies in the area. The local people made their concerns well known to the engineers and scientists who did the first feasibility study which accommodated their traditional knowledge with the Steensby port location on the other side of Baffin Island. It has only been the most recent owners who have disregarded this traditional, scientific and federal government knowledge vying for an option which is unnecessarily harmful to the environment. Steensby was identified as a much less disruptive site and offered much longer ice free shipping. The original feasibility study authors were simply following professional ethics and standard industry practice in terms of social responsibility towards the local population. It would be considerate of the current owners to listen to and be respectful of the local people and the existing science as was done by the first group of engineers and scientists.

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    • Posted by Capitol matters on

      The Steensby rail line would have been a reality if the review process didn’t take so long, the iron ore price tanked and all the investors walked. Building that line is a costly venture and the mine was only able to secure a fraction of the capitol needed, that’s why the Milne rail line became a necessary stepping stone to secure the mine’s future. Building the Steensby rail line is ideal, but the capitol disappeared long ago as investors are only so patient, this phase 2 was a plan B.

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      • Posted by Timelines on

        So, looked at the original Mary River report. It includes a handy timeline. The review for the Mary River project started in March 2009, and the Decision was issued in September 2012. That’s three and a half years. Sounds like a lot. But from November 2009 to January 2011, everyone was waiting for Baffinland to produce their Draft Environmental Impact Statement, so there’s just over a year that’s all on Baffinland and no one else had any control over. Then there’s another three months it took Baffinland to submit their Final Environmental Impact Statement.

        So really, there’s only just over two years where NIRB and everyone else had any control over the process. And that is entirely in line with what it takes to get approval for a new mine anywhere in Canada, and much of the world, for that matter.

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  11. Posted by Colin on

    The website for the Review Board doesn’t seem to have the text of its Decision. Or else it’s simply too difficult to access.

    Also the most recent annual report posted is FIVE YEARS OLD, for 2017.

    Also, it doesn’t seem to be possible to access the credentials of board members and decision-making staff. Which, if any, of them are engineers or economists, or university-qualified wildlife management and marine biology specialists?

    All in all the Board has, therefore, little or no credibility.

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    • Posted by Amused on

      Go to http://www.nirb.ca. Right on the front page is a section called “New Documents”. Right at the top of it is “08MN053 Phase 2 Development Proposal”. Click the symbol in the “Documents” column. And hey, look at that: the letter to the minister, the report, the highlights document, and the news releases.

      Are you going to question the credentials of the ministers who will make the final decision as well?

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    • Posted by I know what. on

      Feels > Reals

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  12. Posted by Southerner on

    If the mine stops and y’all have to work south,,,i hope you see signs saying job open only to southerners thats what i learnt from the comments

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    • Posted by Ssshhh on

      Sssh, you’re not allowed to discuss systemic racism in Nunavut.

      Only those of European heritage can racist, don’t ya know?

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  13. Posted by Northern Guy on

    So the NIRB has chosen to support long term poverty and reliance on government handouts over economic growth and stability. If Minister Vandal sides with the Board expect the next steps to be a court date on grounds of procedural fairness.

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  14. Posted by ALAN GORMAN on

    Congratulations to NIRB for arriving at the right decision. We does not only speak for those capable of speaking. Have the Narwhal been speaking? An Arctic fox dusted red speaks. Arctic vegetation choked with iron dust speaks. Satellite imagery speaks volumes too.

    As Mayor Johnny (at that moment in history0 reminded me “Kuujuak is the smallest Hamlet in Nunavik yet we speak for millions of living organisms that do not have the capacity to speak for themselves.

    I also congratulate the seven land defenders who had the courage to take a stand, one I support and stand with as well.

    Don’t anticipate a response before the next election and why is the minister delaying his response at all? The LANDOWNERS have spoken!

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  15. Posted by Umingmak on

    Horrible news. They’ve given in to politics over science & opportunity.

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    • Posted by Anon on

      Have you listened to what any of the scientists who weren’t employed by Baffinland said about this?

      NIRB’s decision is largely based on criticisms of the project from scientists working for DFO, GN, and Inuit Orgs. They’ve testified over and over that they disagree with Baffinland’s conclusions that the project will cause ‘zero harm’. They’ve all been very clear that a combination of poor research on the part of Baffinland, combined with poor baseline data, means that there’s way too much uncertainty for anyone to predict the impacts of this expansion.

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  16. Posted by JOHN ELL on

    I am happy with the NIRB decision that the mining company will have to go back to the drawing board and do a better research with their mining strategy.
    One strategy is to hire a creative genius to work on the map of northern Baffin.

    UJARANIATIT PIANIKPATA NUNA ATTULAUTANGAT QANGALUKTAQ TIGUMIARLGU NIQJUTAITUULIRALUAPAT.

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  17. Posted by Chad Ronny on

    Guess they’ll have to build the rail line south.

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    • Posted by Direction? on

      To where exactly?

      • Posted by piitaqanngi on

        Build it all the way to Iqaluit. Most of the commenters are obviously from there. No one will object. It’s already got a deep sea por.

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        • Posted by Too far on

          That’s almost 1000km as the crow flies. That would cost tens of billions of dollars without tunnels. Not feasible economically or environmentally.

  18. Posted by Anonymous on

    At stake is the Nunavut Agreement. If the Minister either rejects the NIRB decision or if he even varies the NIRB decision through terms and conditions then Inuit can’t have faith in the Nunavut Agreement regulatory system.

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  19. Posted by pokerface on

    If the mine was to be shut down with concerns to all the pollution it would cause.
    Look at our communities and Hamlet’s, they don’t seem to mind about the raw sewage that flows to our fishing/ sealing waters and garbage dumps bruning toxic smoke into the communities and the wind blowing garbage to the land and sea for decades? What’s wrong with the picture?

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  20. Posted by Sam on

    Let’s be very clear about one thing here.

    PJ never sat down to build a better working relationship with impacted communities. Under his leadership deteriorated.

    If PJ put in the time and effort to focus on Inuit-to-Inuit relationships the outcome could have been very different.

    How will PJ fix this now as Premier? Will he point the finger at QIA and Mittimatalik?

Comments are closed.