Review board wants more meetings on Baffinland expansion in March 2020
NIRB won’t decide on when to resume final hearing until after March conference
The Nunavut Impact Review Board is proposing more meetings to help prepare for its ongoing hearing on Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s phase two expansion plan for its Mary River iron mine, the board said in a news release issued Dec. 16.
First, the review board wants a technical meeting to be held for five days in March. This will give Baffinland a chance to answer unresolved questions raised by communities, Inuit organizations and conservation groups who worry about the social and environmental impacts of the mine expansion, the board said.
Afterward, the board will convene a three-day pre-hearing conference. Such a meeting was proposed by representatives such as Eric Ootoovak, chairperson of the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, who said it would help parties track progress on outstanding issues and identify any remaining concerns.
The pre-hearing conference would include discussions about the timing, venue and format of the final hearing, the review board said.
After these meetings, the board will consider those discussions and decide when the public hearing will be resumed.
“The scheduling of another hearing is dependent on the discussions of technical and procedural issues at the technical meeting and pre-hearing conference,” the review board said in a news release.
Board staff are now trying to work out exact dates, locations and draft agendas for the March meetings, the news release said.
Baffinland’s final hearing was supposed to have wrapped up in early November. But, on the hearing’s fifth day, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. introduced a motion to adjourn.
Following the adjournment, intervenors were invited to provide written submissions on how to proceed.
While NTI wants the final hearing to be adjourned for eight months to one year, Baffinland wants the public hearing to restart in April.
“The board would like to highlight that it took special consideration of issues raised by parties especially the significant financial and employment implications to Baffinland and the affected communities, the associated participant funding process, seasonal activities in the most affected communities, and the breadth of outstanding technical issues and requirement for translations,” the board wrote in a summary of its decision.
Two technical meetings were held prior to the public hearing in 2019, but unresolved issues remain.
By Jan. 6, Baffinland is required to update its project scope for phase two, clarifying a few points of concern from the hearing.
This includes the full extent of operational flexibility requested and Baffinland’s preferred options for the rail alignment, crossing infrastructure for that rail line, as well as anchorage points.
Baffinland will also submit a list of commitments made and deferred responses from the previous hearing.
Intervenors and other interested parties will have until Feb. 6 to produce updated technical review submissions. Baffinland will then have the option to respond to those submissions by Feb. 13.
Baffinland must file any materials it plans to present during the technical meeting and pre-hearing conference by Feb. 25.
Production increase extension under consideration
The board is also considering Baffinland’s request for a one-year extension to its production increase of 6 million tonnes per year, up from the allowed 4.2 million.
The federal government granted this extension in 2018 to allow for year-round employment while the phase-two assessment took place. It expires Dec. 31, 2019.
Baffinland has until Jan. 6 to supply additional information on this request, then intervenors will have the option to respond. Once Baffinland has had the chance to respond to those comments, the board will make its recommendations to the federal government.
Baffinland has said it needs a response by Feb. 28 to have enough time to contract vessels for the upcoming shipping season.