The mining company threatened last week to lay off over 1,300 employees if its emergency order is not approved
The office of the minister of Northern Affairs says it has no authority to grant Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation’s request for an emergency order to allow the company to continue to mine six million tonnes of ore this year from its Mary River mine in Nunavut. The current cap is 4.2 million tonnes.
It comes after Baffin land sent the request for the order to Minister Dan Vandal’s office on May 20.
On Monday, Kyle Allen, a spokesperson for the ministry, said in an email to CBC News that while it is reviewing the company’s request, granting the order is not within its jurisdiction.
“Following a request…. for the minister to unilaterally increase the permit, the minister noted he had no such authority and notified the proponent that they should make a request directly to the Nunavut Impact Review Board,” Allen wrote.
He noted that Baffinland has since submitted a request to NIRB to continue to extract six million tones of ore for the rest of the year.
“We encourage the proponent to continue doing the work they promised … work with partners in a responsible way, respect the independent NIRB process.”
Temporary approval expired Dec. 31
Since 2018, Baffinland has been granted temporary approval to increase production from 4.2 million tonnes to six million tonnes, but that expired on Dec. 31 2021.
At the time, Baffinland didn’t formally apply to the Nunavut Impact Review Board to extend its extraction limit. Baffinland said the reason it didn’t submit a request sooner was because of COVID-19.
Earlier this month, NIRB recommended Baffinland’s Phase 2 expansion not be allowed to proceed. That decision followed a four-year review process that pitted economic development against environmental protections and the sustainability of traditional hunting.
NIRB’s chair said at the time in a letter to Vandal that the mine has the potential for “significant adverse ecosystemic effects” on marine mammals, fish, caribou and other wildlife, which in turn could harm Inuit culture, land use and food security.
QIA not happy to hear of possible layoffs
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association said it isn’t happy to hear that employees working at Baffinland’s Mary River Project could be issued lay-off notices.
Baffinland said last week over 1,300 employees — including 209 Inuit — will be laid off if its emergency request order is not approved.
Olayuk Akesuk, the president of QIA, said the organization is dismayed that Baffinland was not better prepared to submit a formal application.
“I think it’s important that we work with Baffinland to find out ways to try and go ahead with the mining in the future,” he said.
“But in the meantime, we’re very sad that there’ll be layoffs.”
Akesuk said QIA will continue to communicate with impacted Inuit and communities.
-With files from Cindy Alorut, Teresa Qiatsuq and Nick Murray
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Sweden: UN experts call on Sweden to halt mining project on Indigenous Sami land, Eye on the Arctic