Public roundtable meetings begin Thursday in Iqaluit on Baffinland’s latest proposal to ship more ore from its Mary River mine in Nunavut.
The Iqaluit roundtable will happen over three days and hear from representatives of seven potentially affected communities in the North Baffin region along with other interested parties. Then, a public roundtable will be held in Pond Inlet on Tuesday and Wednesday to hear from people there.
Baffinland filed its Sustaining Operations Proposal to the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) in March, months after the federal government rejected its proposed Phase 2 expansion project. The Phase 2 project would have seen the company shipping up to 12 million tonnes of ore per year from the mine, and would have involved the construction of a new railway to the Milne Inlet port.
The new proposal is to amend the mine’s terms and conditions to allow Baffinland to ship up to six million tonnes of ore per year for another two years. That’s up from 4.2 million tonnes per year, and the increase is the same amount Baffinland has asked and been approved for in previous years. Last year, it narrowly avoided laying off more than 1,100 employees as it waited to find out if its previous request would be approved.
The new proposal, if approved, would also allow Baffinland to ship more than six million tonnes of ore in any one year from Milne Inlet, if “unexpected circumstances” meant there was ore stockpiled at the port from the previous year. For example, in 2022, some ore was stranded at the port when heavy ice put an early end to shipping operations.
As with its Phase 2 proposal, Baffinland argues that its new plan would help keep the mine viable and protect Inuit jobs and benefits to Nunavut communities.
In written submissions to NIRB last month, the hamlets of Arctic Bay and Sanirajak urged the NIRB to approve Baffinland’s new proposal. The mayor of Pond Inlet has also written to NIRB to express support on behalf of the hamlet council.
Meantime, the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization (MHTO) in Pond Inlet has written to NIRB questioning Baffinland’s promises to monitor and mitigate any ongoing impacts from the mine.
“Existing monitoring programs have not provided robust information that can be used to reliably assess whether mitigations are working, therefore conclusions about certainty and significance do not provide the MHTO with confidence that these programs are effectively managing impacts from the ongoing project,” the letter reads.
The company has said it spent more than four months engaging with North Baffin communities and has asked the board to issue its recommendation by August.
And in April, Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal wrote to the board to say federal ministers felt that timeline would be sufficient, adding they are “sensitive to the concerns raised” about the proposal.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Baffinland CEO disappointed by rejection of company’s expansion project, CBC News
Russia: New mining project sets sights on Chukotka in Russia’s eastern Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer