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 nearing the deadline it set for itself to make a recommendation on Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed Mary River mine expansion. (Photo courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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.


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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Silas on

    This is a tough one where some organizations in the communities are against the expansion and some of the Hamlets are in favour of it, the regional Inuit Association is against it.
    Looking at NIRB’s primary objective in the Nunavut Agreement Article 12.2.5. Did those who oppose the expansion show that the impact will be sufficient to meet the requirements set by this point in the agreement.
    My personal concern would be: how long and how much benefit will this have on Inuit because once the iron is extracted that’s it. How will the training benefit those who were trained after the mine closes?
    I believe there should be way more than 14.5% Inuit employment for such a large project, perhaps in the next five years as an example. The Nunavut Agreement should have covered employment by developers impacting Inuit settlement area and not just employment by governments.
    My two cents.

    • Posted by In Reality on

      Silas, the most difficult part of my experience as a manager in Nunavut, and one echoed often by others, was the huge challenges in maintaining a consistent work force drawn from the pool of Inuit labour. It is unusual, and hard to explain how people can show such casual disregard for their jobs; showing up late, taking unscheduled days, even weeks off without consideration that this might affect your employer let alone your employment.

      Not all Inuit are like this, but this is a significant problem. I have no doubt the mines would prefer to have a much higher ratio of local workers, but there are challenges in maintaining that, that your comment does not acknowledge. Few comments on the issue by Inuit seem to acknowledge that.

  2. Posted by Hmm on

    It’s true that there are many barriers to Inuit employment that need to be addressed to allow for a more stable local job force.

    You seem to suggest that it’s Inuit who don’t acknowledge these barriers. However, I’d argue that it’s really the mining industry that doesn’t, when it keeps making pie in the sky promises of local employments numbers that it never seems to live up to.

    • Posted by No Magic Wand on

      Your comment is a great example of the kind of denial I am getting at.

      Ignore problem and blame everyone else, it’s become quite the dance routine.

  3. Posted by Marvin Bagley on

    For what reasons might the minister go against the NIRB recommendation? I can’t think of many, and if he does, that surely will cause a lot of controversy

    I’d the NIRB recommendation the defecto red or green light? I’m not familiar with these situations historically

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