The federal government has given a final thumbs-down to the proposal by Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. to build a railroad and double its annual shipping output from its Mary River mine to 12 million tons. The decision was announced on November 16 by Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal.
“After careful consideration and consultations, the federal government is accepting the recommendation of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) that the proposal, in its current form, should not proceed at this time,” the Minister said.
“We encourage Baffinland to continue to work with partners in establishing a positive path forward following today’s decision. This can be done by Baffinland applying for a new project to adequately consider any new proposed commitments in a public setting, providing certainty for all partners.”
The independent, arm’s-length NIRB conducted a comprehensive assessment process regarding this Phase 2 project and recommended that it not proceed due to potentially significant adverse impacts on vegetation and freshwater, leading to adverse socio-economic effects on Inuit harvesting, culture, land use, and food security in Nunavut, and also warned of adverse eco-systemic effects on marine mammals and fish, caribou, and other terrestrial wildlife. The NIRB concluded that these potential significant adverse effects cannot be adequately prevented, mitigated, or adaptively managed under proposed mitigation, adaptive management, and monitoring programs.
Minister Vandal stressed: “The federal government is not in a position to unilaterally impose new or varied terms and conditions that have not been considered by the Board or impacted parties—that goes against the spirit and intent of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, which sets out specific Inuit rights related to lands and resources. As noted, this process is best left to a new project assessment in which all potentially affected parties can participate. Such an assessment can avail itself of the significant work already done through the Phase 2 Project Certificate reconsideration.
“The federal government recognizes and commends the continued efforts that Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation has made to work with communities and Inuit partners, most notably Qikiqtani Inuit Association, to address concerns with Phase 2 in the months since the NIRB’s recommendation report was issued. Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation currently has an approved project certificate to ship 18 million tonnes of iron ore per year through a southern route to Steensby Inlet; however, it has not moved forward on this project, known as Phase 1.
“The federal government continues to support a strong resource development sector in the North that is sustainable, creates economic opportunity for Indigenous Peoples and all Northerners, advances reconciliation, and respects the environment. Mining is one of Canada’s most important economic sectors, particularly in the North, and we will continue working with partners, including Baffinland, in developing projects that respect Inuit rights, create high-paying jobs for workers, and protect the environment.” (Photo from Baffinland Iron Mines)