Vandal rejects Baffinland’s Phase 2 expansion; company expected to release statement Thursday

Northern Affairs minister released his long-awaited decision Wednesday evening

Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, seen here in a file photo, has rejected Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Phase 2 Mary River mine expansion proposal. (File photo)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal has rejected Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s plan to build a railroad and double its annual shipping output from its Mary River mine.

“The era of Ottawa overriding Indigenous nations, Indigenous governments for resource development projects in the North, is over,” Vandal said Wednesday in an interview with Nunatsiaq News.

The Liberal cabinet minister released his decision on the expansion proposal, known as Phase 2, on Wednesday evening in a letter to Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq, chairperson of the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the organization responsible for advising the federal government about the social and economic impacts of development in the territory.

Vandal said he agreed with the board’s conclusion earlier this year that Baffinland could not properly mitigate or manage potential effects on the environment, wildlife and fish habitats if the mine were to expand.

As northern affairs minister, Vandal gets the final say on NIRB’s recommendation, though he consulted with four other federal cabinet ministers.

“The other responsible ministers and I have carefully considered the board’s report … and input from the designated Inuit organizations, and have decided … to accept the board’s recommendation that Phase 2 should not proceed at this time,” he said in the letter.

The company wants to build a 110-kilometre railroad between its Mary River mine and Milne Inlet, double its shipping limit of iron ore to 12 million tonnes per year from six million and build an additional dock at the Milne Inlet port.

The review board assessed that proposal for approximately four years, with several in-person meetings held in Iqaluit and Pond Inlet.

It concluded in May that the project should not go ahead because possible negative impacts on wildlife and fish habitats could not be “adequately prevented, mitigated, or adaptively managed.”

Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman did not respond to Nunatsiaq News’ questions regarding the future of the mine Wednesday evening, but said the company will release a statement Thursday.

Baffinland is the territory’s largest private sector employer with more than 2,600 workers and accounted for 23 per cent of Nunavut’s economic activity in 2019.

The company has said it needs to expand its Mary River mine to make it financially viable.

Baffinland first turned its attention toward Milne Inlet in January 2013 when, one month after then-northern affairs minister John Duncan approved plans for a 149-kilometre railway to Steensby Inlet, the company announced it needed to raise money to fund that route.

The company wanted to raise the money by trucking 3.5 million tonnes of iron ore per year to Milne Inlet and shipping it through what is now the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area.

Those plans evolved: Since that time, company executives have said that Baffinland wants to have a mine that is allowed to ship 30 million tonnes of iron ore each year: 12 million tonnes out of Milne Inlet and 18 million tonnes from Steensby Inlet.

In the interview Wednesday, Vandal pointed to two reasons for his decision to turn down Phase 2.

“The [NIRB] report was very, very clear,” he said, noting the impacts on “vegetation and fresh water, which would negatively impact Inuit harvesting … and food for years and years.

“There was no reasonable way, as per the science, to mitigate it.”

In his letter, Vandal said the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. wrote to him on Oct. 25, months after NIRB’s public hearing had ended, to say that they and north Baffin hunters agree the potential impacts to wildlife would be too severe if Baffinland’s plan went ahead.

Vandal said their lack of support played into his decision.

“The land that the mine is on is not Crown land; it’s Inuit-owned land,” he said. “Those, for me, were the most salient reasons.”

His department had to balance the economic impacts while ensuring Inuit rights were upheld, he said.

Vandal said he wants Baffinland to continue working with the Inuit organizations and levels of government to improve its proposal.

“I want to encourage [Baffinland] to continue working with Inuit rights holders, to work with CanNor and to try to continue the good momentum they have,” he said.

“We are focusing on creating jobs, protecting jobs and ensuring the Nunavut Agreement and Inuit rights are respected.”

 

 

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(71) Comments:

  1. Posted by Nooo on

    So how are we going to blame the mines now for the decline in caribou population that has nothing to do with overhunting and online sales????

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    • Posted by Hello! on

      Mines are the reason people started purchasing caribou since they stopped going to our area because of the mine.

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      • Posted by Really? on

        There was a story in Nunatsiaq about people in Pond Inlet complaining caribou they were buying from the Kivalliq was expensive to ship in 2011.

        The mine was approved for construction in 2012. Want to try again?

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      • Posted by UpHere on

        Monitoring of Baffin caribou shows a steep decline in all herds starting 20 years before the mine. The cause has always been known. A tripling of the hunting population. Long gun access. Motorized vehicles reaching further and further into caribou habitat. That mine probably has an impact, but the crisis status of Baffin caribou is 100% caused by over-hunting.

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        • Posted by Go east on

          True. Wonder why herd populations in greenland are so healthy? It’s cause they have strict rules for hunting. No ski-doo while hunting, no hunting during off-season, strict limits.

          In nunavut its an unregulated free-for-all. Human population boom + people willing to pay big bucks for country food + basically no rules = caribou population decline/potential extinction.

          But, instead let’s blame the mines instead of accepting that maybe greenland is just doing things better than Canada and we can learn from greenland inuit

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  2. Posted by Gone south on

    Looks like PJ’s ICA has gone south. Baffinland made a big mistake negotiating with PJ instead of North Baffin communities.

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    • Posted by UpHere on

      No municipality in Nunavut (or in Canada for that matter) has the independent authority to negotiate beyond its legal mandate under the Acts and Nunavut Land Claims agreement. They have zero legal capacity to negotiate anything. Municipalities have no Constitutional standing in Canada. The only public parties authorized are the Inuit organizations, NIRB, NOC, and the GN, as well as the Feds. Everyone else is just a consultative stakeholder.

      If you don’t like that, it is necessary to change Canada’s Constitution.

      • Posted by Gone south on

        PJ, one man show from QIA negotiated without consulting North Baffin communities. QIA are elected by Baffin communities and have to listen to their constituents, otherwise they will turn on QIA. North Baffin did not agree to Inuit Certainty Agreement but QIA made an agreement with Baffinland and that money was going to be given to QIA, not to Baffin communities. I’m glad they lost!

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  3. Posted by Cultural Museum on

    Awesome, let’s just close the mine altogether. We can open a cultural museum in its place. Everyone can dress up like 200 years ago and roll play ‘traditional life.’ Nothing has to change, ever.. it will be paradise.

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    • Posted by Not a bad idea really on

      More cultural museums are a good thing, not sure why you’d use that as a bad example. No shame in embracing our culture, no matter how far we feel we are from it.

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        • Posted by Not a bad idea on

          We can have progress without destroying the land. Destroying the land for foreign investors was never the Inuit way or native way. Take away the land in which we come from, and we lose more than just the land. Well lose the culture and our way of life. Seems like some folk want that to happen. Seems like we all need to get in touch with what made us us originally.

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  4. Posted by Jim Bury on

    Great news. Baffinland was exploiting the resources and damaging the environment and did not do a good job with the community who is also against them. We win!

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    • Posted by John on

      “Win” is an interesting choice of words. That makes it sound like a competition or a conflict where there is a winner and a loser. The mine expansion was an opportunity for both sides. The only thing we can say here is that the communities chose not to take advantage of the opportunity. Now… things are just the same as they always were. That isn’t really a “win” as far as I am concerned. Improving things is a “win”.

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    • Posted by J on

      At some point Nunavut needs to stand on its own two feet and stop relying on the rest of Canada to support it. You’re throwing away a huge chunk of your economy if Baffinland ever ups and leaves. Selling carvings and throat singing won’t be enough to keep Nunavut going on its own. You’ll have to continue relying on Mommy Ottawa. Absolutely pathetic and out of touch with reality.

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  5. Posted by Catastrophe! on

    Nunavut just took about 20 steps backwards. Ottawa better pony up for more social assistance, forget private home ownership for at least 2 generations. No mining company will want to touch Nunavut with a ten-foot pole. I’m sure there will be a parade in Pond Inlet tonight.

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    • Posted by Hmm on

      There are three other mines in operation in Nunavut, so I am amiss with your usual blackmail nostalgia. This is a great learning experience for the industry. Lesson to the traditional owners before making grandiose plans. The mine is still in operation and will have less impact on the long term well-being of the community. For those who do not like this yes you can go away please as we plan to be here forever.

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      • Posted by Gordon on

        Wow! 4 mines in an area of 2 million square kilometers.
        Nunavut is choke full of valuable mineral resources. Access and logistics make it difficult enough to develop those resources, why does the government have to make it even more onerous to do business in the North?

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  6. Posted by Tonyangmarli on

    Agree with mr vandell…you heard nunavut speak….not just 5 community that impacted for in community s all baffin is impacted in that mining, we pangnirtung is impact with all the shipping iron….big thanks to Trudeau government….liberal all the way pangnirtung residents.

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    • Posted by Jim Bury on

      Agree! Liberal all the way!!! Trudeau really understands us!!

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  7. Posted by Maniio on

    Ensuring Nunavut Inuit stay poor and dependent on Government free handouts. Isn’t that right MP Idlout and NTI Kotierk. That’s right, you have no plans for Nunavut!

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  8. Posted by Truestory on

    Dang. My working taxpaying life is being dictated from a man far away. Who collects my hard earned dollars to boot. What a low blow to us B.I.M. workers from Nunavut. Guess them big wig likes us to collect welfare cheques in the near future.

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    • Posted by Pay attention to your argument on

      If you are a janitor you might keep your job. Are you a truck driver by chance? If so then your job is safe for now. I don’t get how anybody thinks that the expansion would increase employment? I wouldn’t, its obvious they would need less workers with a rail line. What are you really complaining about?

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  9. Posted by Baffinland worker on

    Hope the ministry is ready for the reprocussions of this decision. Are they ready to support all the people who will need income if the mine closes and the money disappears.

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  10. Posted by Baffinland worker on

    Wow. Hope the minister is ready to start paying the income for all the workers who will lose their jobs because of this decision..

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    • Posted by for real? on

      So you must be one of the few who would keep your job if the tracks were built. Southern worker as well?

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      • Posted by Baffinland worker on

        No I don’t. I received the same layoff notice as everyone else. Will be hurting as well.

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  11. Posted by Future Perfect on

    BIM reportedly has 2600 employees.
    Only a couple hundred are Inuit.
    All the rest a not residents of Nunavut.
    Even the couple hundred Inuit are not all residents of Nunavut.
    Many (most?) reside down south and commute to BIM.
    The non-residents contribute 2% of earnings to the GN in Payroll Tax.
    The non-residents contribute their Income Tax to their province of residence.
    .
    How many of the Inuit employed at BIM are truck drivers?
    The proposed rail line would eliminate the haul truck jobs. There would have been fewer Inuit employed if the expansion had gone ahead.
    .
    As for drivers of big trucks at the mine, their days are numbered, too.
    Remotely driven trucks and driver-less operation are coming.
    It’s time to learn geology and engineering (or food service) if you want to work at a mine.
    .
    BIM pays royalties based on the amount mined. They rightly want to minimize their costs. But some of those costs are the main thing that Inuit get for the iron they own in the ground. Inuit have the right to get as much as they can for the ore they own.

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    • Posted by Future Perfect has the Facts on

      This is exactly what people don’t see. They see jobs lost because it wasn’t approved. But realistically there isn’t much for Inuit to gain here because the rail would mean less need for workers. I don’t get how tight the blinders are on this one? The proponents are purely money driven, and that goes to show in these comments. Well said, thank you for bringing in some facts. Please bring more if you have them 🙂

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    • Posted by Lionel on

      People working at the mine pay their income tax in their home provinces yes. It’s called supporting your community and the country’s economy. You may want to include that in your comments as well

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      • Posted by Michael McIntosh on

        Actually alot of us don’t because if you are in Nunavut a certain number of days you can legally file there even if not resident and it has a lower tax rate then most provinces

    • Posted by DudeTown on

      I completely agree. It feels obvious. It makes me feel like the commentators that are thumbs downing you just don’t live here.

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    • Posted by Taxpayer on

      Yes, jobs are important. Contracts and Royalties are too. To focus on one without the others is too simplistic. If this operation can keep going and expand, for example, Inuit orgs if they so choose, could end Inuit homelessness in Qiqiqtani by using these funds to build houses or support individual families become homeowners. The royalties alone will be in the hundreds of millions just for this one mine, so this is entirely possible. You cannot discount this aspect no matter who works there. That could be a transformational benefit to thousands of Inuit who have never set foot at the mine.

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    • Posted by Don’t matter on

      Give your heads a shake. Maybe check out the mining industry in Labrador. You don’t understand that pat rates are bot much higher. But their town has been ran down by BIG investors. Nunavut doesn’t get it, but all too soon I believe they will.

  12. Posted by Ditto on

    “Vandal said he wants Baffinland to continue working with the Inuit organizations and levels of government to improve its proposal.” Screw you Inuit organizations and levels of government, including Federal, just a waste of time and $’s going forward.

    Baffinland investors will demand that they go somewhere where they are appreciated for all that they do. Baffinland decision sets the stage for why no mining company will consider Nunavut in the future.

    You know that mining is in trouble in Canada when the Federal Government listens to what Greenland and Denmark thinks Canada should do. They should have asked China what they think.

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  13. Posted by Kataisee on

    This message is urgent and needs immediate action. There is racist remarks directed and much hatred messages please monitor and remove those remarks.

    This is disheartening and offensive message to me and if I feel this way there are many feeling the same way.

    Qujannamiiraaluk
    Kataisee

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    • Posted by Just because… on

      Just because they are Qalunaat and don’t agree with you doesn’t mean it’s racist. I haven’t seen a single thing that’s racist in this thread.

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    • Posted by Playing the race card on

      Please be careful when using the word racist. It is a very serious word which gets thrown around far too often, especially out of context. As a refresher, here is the Mirriam-Webster’s definition of racism:

      ‘prejudice against or antagonistic toward a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.’

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  14. Posted by Go Vandal on

    Up to date and before the mining started in Pond income support stayed the same. It is not ministers responsibility to cover BIMs big mistake. They should’ve planned for their employees how to compensate them rather blaming HTOs , hunters, and even fed ministers. How does a company stay up north and still operating when their finance is never viable? You did the right thing Vandal and thank you!

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      You have no way of verifying if regional income support levels stayed the same, went up or went down so please stop with detailed pseudo-economics. Vandal did as the Inuit organizations asked to him do, only time will tell if the decision was a smart one.

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      • Posted by Eugene Charles Smith on

        I lived in Nunavut for 2 or 3 years and was influenced by the Inuit ways of life.
        The mine is ruining the futures of many on a large scale.
        To under play the importance of caribou habitat and sea life is a mistake that would destroy these resources and the uniqueness of the culture
        Money from natural resources is a temporary benefit that will only last until the resource is gone.
        If the purpose of everything is money then the real important values are lost foever.
        In this case I think preservation of wildlife and culture is the real important factor for the future of the Inuit, their environment and culture.
        The mine will be used to make more cars or buildings or tanks the wildlife will sustain a people for ever.

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        • Posted by Putting this out there on

          I agree with you … but soon as you are like “I lived in Nunavut for 2 or 3 years and was influenced by the Inuit ways of life.” you lose credibility… would be better to say what you want and let people like or dislike your comment, living here 2 or 3 years gives you NO insight into how life truly is.

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      • Posted by Trust but Verify on

        Family Services publishes Income Assistance stats and they can be accessed by ATIPP requests or through your MLA.

  15. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Colour me surprised. Cue the Court injunction from Baffinlabd citing a lack of procedural fairness in the NIRB hearing process. Interesting days ahead.

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    • Posted by JR on

      Yes – I will get my popcorn ready. I hope there is a judicial review. Incompetency, deceit, and greed are at the forefront. This especially applies to the QIA and MHTO. If one reads all committments made by BIM, you’d realize the company bent over backwards for all parties. It’s unfortunate how people fail to read and formulate opinion based on fact. They rather choose to march behind liars and money-hungry parties who do not care for the people they are to represent.
      Can the GOC and NIRB not see this? Are you not aware of people overharvesting? I think ineptitude runs deep in both institutions, so perhaps not?
      The North is the wild west, I say. Good luck finding investors.

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    • Posted by UpHere on

      Zero chance of a court action. NIRB and the Federal Minister have clear, evidence-based jurisdiction and the BIM would need grounds. The blunt fact is neither their scientific data nor anyone’s is predictive as to what more industrial activity will mean to wildlife and the environment. Therefore there are no facts to appeal based on a certainty of alternative outcome. BIM has a speculative business on IOL. It doesn’t outright own or have license to the assets. Its participation is entirely voluntary business case. The Constitutional authority is fully vested in both NIRB and the Federal Minister.

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      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        Where do I start? Baffinland does indeed have a license this was given it by the NIRB, the Federal Minister and the holder of the IOL so that’s one argument shot. Second procedural fairness has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the NIRB and Minister’s decisions were evidence-based, they likely were. Procedural fairness hinges on whether or not Baffinland feels that the NIRB followed its process, and BLM was given a fair and impartial hearing; both of which are questions that need to be answered by a judge. So there goes your second point. Except a legal filing any day now.

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        • Posted by UpHere on

          The NIRB license is to mine a set amount. The entire process for Baffinland II was only to increase the amount though 2 ports.
          Regulatory hearings are precisely for hearing from the partial! There are no grounds for legal review, trying to get a court to refute evidence. In other words, the Federal Court cannot re-hear the evidence. The court can review the process, but so far BIM and NIRB and the Federal Minister say the process was followed. So no grounds there, certainly none that a judge can point to as explicitly undermining the evidence. Appellate review is very, very restricted in part because the courts cannot substitute for the actual hearing; they cannot have every submission appear before them and then substitute court opinion for either NIRB or Minister. This is a highly discretionary regulatory environment with the decision vested in NIRB and the Federal Minister. The Minister, is, in fact, the appellate decision maker. There is no “case” upon which a tort or similar can be undertaken.

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  16. Posted by This territory… on

    This territory is a joke. And once southern Canada realizes where their money is going they won’t be laughing.

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  17. Posted by Taxpayer on

    If you are online to post a comment, it’s because of mining industry.

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    • Posted by Enjoyer on

      Agreege. Never have I ever been to post as much alongside mining. Industry. I have seen it. Monka

  18. Posted by Northerner on

    Lots of downvotes. I travel all over nunavut and hear communities state their objection to the increase shipping and mining of this project, so I wonder, where are these downvotes coming from. I’ll tell you. Baffinland.

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  19. Posted by Umingmak on

    This is a disaster for Nunavut. It is now all but certain that Baffinland will shut down, putting hundreds of Nunavummiut out of work, and stripping millions of dollars in annual resource revenues from the territory. This is a simple case of ideology over common sense.

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    • Posted by G-man Choi on

      Sad to see and I believe the same thing, the FEDs will be paying the wages in the future and all the revenue will be gone. There is no common sense up here.

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  20. Posted by Ian on

    No conspiracy here, every elected organisation in Nunavut and Denmark opposed this expansion that’s the way democracy’s should function.Trudeau and the MPs green plan is in full force, look around Canada, it’s happenning in every province and territory, and the elected elite in this country everywhere, are supporting it. The working class everywhere, are carrying the cost of this, and if the majority of people in Nunavut want this, it should be. On this issue where are the planners in this territory going to create a bit of wealth, they have no idea.that’s why there is over 20 thousand Inuit living in the south .and more leaving,at least they have a chance to earn a living and have a place to live and are treated better in the south.

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  21. Posted by Lets be Honest on

    Lets be honest Baffinland has not been a great example of a mine being a good operator or land user. They used bully tactics, threats of layoffs and op eds to try to push their agenda. That being said this decision is concern as it will impact future and potential good operators.

    Baffinland while aggressive, operated within the legal framework presented to them. With the Nunavut Agreement they must work with QIA and NTI on IIBA not the local communities. The issue at hand is the majority of the Economic Benefit that is weighed by NIRB against the environmental impacts was flowing to Iqaluit via QIA and NTI, and not the directly impacted communities. Baffinland tried to work at a community level within their IIBA, but they are limited on what they are allowed to do by it.

    So how does this project move forward if ever? QIA needs to ensure that funds are proportionally being spent in the communities most directly impacted by the mine activities. It should not all be funneled to Iqaluit or to be held in southern investments.

    Future investors will look at how QIA and NTI flip flopped on this project over the years, and how they could not find a way to work with their own community members in the high arctic. This provides no certainty of investment. Baffinland has spent Billions of dollars and will most likely walk away, and while I don’t disagree that they are not a great operator, the message it sends to others looking to invest in the territory is detrimental to Inuit, Inuit Orgs, and the GN.

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    • Posted by Consistency on

      BIM has not been open/honest about their wishes. At the beginning they gave the communities 3 options to “choose” from (the south route Steensby Inlet route was “chosen” and approved) then they go north to Milne, their caribou surveys (height of land surveys and looking for tracks along the side of the road) are a joke.
      I hope this lets BIM and all the other mines know that what they say and do maters. And no free rides. We have a lot of minerals in Nunavut the mines should be competing with each other over which few get the pleasure of mining our land. and that they have to keep good relations and trust to be allowed to continue.

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      • Posted by Lets be Honest on

        So I believe honesty and confusion are two different things. Baffinland is trying to work like anyone on a path of least resistance. The Steensby Inlet was approved I to allow for up to 18 million tons being shipped and for the construction of the Rail line to Steensby.

        Baffinland said during the NIRB hearings that it could not finance the project without the increase to 12 million tons via Milne Inlet. Investors want to see that Baffinland can deal with that kind of volume before investing 100s of million more into the project. Only operating at 4 or 6 million tons does not show to investors they can do it. Milne was easier to build a road and haul by truck.

        Should they have bothered with Milne, in my opinion no, however I understand why they did based on what they presented during the NIRB hearings. Is it frustrating for the communities, definitely, however situations, finances, and other things change. They have communicated them, just not well, and only via the mechanisms they need to do that thru, which is NIRB and their QIA/NTI landlords.

        So have they been honest? I believe they have. Have they been good at communicating? I don’t think so.

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      This will almost certainly have a chilling effect on future territorial investments by the mining sector. The word is now out that Nunavut is hostile to mining development, we will have to wait and see what the final impacts will be.

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      • Posted by Other mines on

        Not sure if you know this but there are 3 gold mines currently operating in Nunavut. Not really hostile, it’s just Baffinland and the tactics they use.

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        • Posted by Northern Guy on

          All established well in advance of the NIRB-Vandal decision. Anyone who doesn’t think that this precedent won’t scare away FUTURE investors and mining companies is dreaming in technicolor.

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  22. Posted by Northernbloke on

    There pamphlet says its high grade ore,hope there reporting right numbers in finances,also hope there is no gold in this ore,it’s a possibilty

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  23. Posted by Unknown on

    Everyone is so greedy about country food, phase two should just have happened.

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  24. Posted by Oh well on

    I wonder what the QIA is going to say when the mine use the permit it already has just goes south to Steensby triples production and also doesn’t have to give the communities any of the things they promised for phase 2

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    • Posted by Consistency on

      It is scarry that they have that option. but also since they have that option it is even more important that Phase 2 is rejected. They have not even completed the Phase 1 that they asked for.

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