Review board’s deadline for Baffinland recommendation 1 week away
Federal Northern Affairs minister says government’s decision will come within 90 days of receiving board’s recommendation
The Nunavut Impact Review Board is a week away from its May 13 deadline to provide a yes or no recommendation on Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s planned Mary River mine expansion.
However it decides, the board’s decision will be the culmination of an exhaustive, nearly four-year review process.
It has taken in more than 2,000 documents, evidence gathered from technical briefings and community events, and four attempts at a public meeting since 2018.
Baffinland wants to build a 110-kilometre railroad from the Mary River mine, near Pond Inlet, to Milne Inlet. It also wants an additional dock, and to double its shipping output from six to 12 million tonnes of iron ore per year through the Tallurutiup Imanga marine conservation area, among other developments.
Throughout the process, the company has maintained that expansion is critical to its financial standing and that rejection might put the mine into care and maintenance, meaning it would no longer produce iron ore.
At the end of 2021, Inuit accounted for 381 of its 2,628 direct or contracted employees at the mine, or 14.5 per cent of the workers, according to a company document.
The hamlets of Sanirajak, Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet all have expressed support for the proposal. Hunters and trappers organizations in each of those communities, though, still oppose the project, with some calling for a 10-year moratorium on the expansion plans.
Some hamlets listed the expected economic benefits as their reason for support.
Pond Inlet Mayor Joshua Arreak, for example, has noted the mining company paid more than $16 million in wages to his hamlet’s residents since 2015, and that it will build a $10-million Inuit training centre if expansion is approved.
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association, meanwhile, still has not given its support to the expansion, stating Inuit need time to determine how the mining project is already affecting their land and resources.
The review board’s recommendation will be sent to federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, who will then approve or deny the project.
In mid-April, Vandal told Nunatsiaq News he and his team will review the board’s recommendation and issue a decision within 90 days of its release.