Nunavut Impact Review Board rejects Baffinland expansion project

The Nunavut Impact Review Board has recommended that the Baffinland Phase 2 expansion not be permitted.

The long-awaited recommendation was released on Friday, part of a four-year review process that pitted economic development against environmental protection and the sustainability of traditional hunting.

The decision ultimately rests with Dan Vandal, the federal Minister for Northern Affairs. Vandal has previously said he will make a decision within 90 days of CNER’s recommendation.

The Mary River Mine has been operating on North Baffin Island since 2015 and is currently licensed to mine and ship up to six million tonnes of ore per year.

Baffinland is asking to double its shipment of iron ore from its Milne Inlet port to 12 million tons per year and to build a 110 kilometer railway to the port.

Baffinland has made a myriad of promises to nearby communities as part of the expansion, including jobs, money, environmental monitoring programs, boats, daycares, training centers and more.

The company has also pledged to gradually increase shipping over four years from Phase 2 approval and to ban the use of heavy fuel oil seven years before it is banned in the Canadian Arctic.

Many of the commitments are tied to a billion-dollar Baffinland Inuit Security Agreement signed with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association in 2020, subject to the expansion process.

Still, QIA chose not to support the expansion, citing a lack of trust between communities and uncertainty over whether the proposed new mitigation measures will actually work with larger mining.

However, Baffinland also warned that the viability of the mine is at stake if the expansion does not proceed.

More soon.

WATCH | The Inuit of Baffin Island could decide the fate of the Far North Iron Mine:

Baffin Island Inuit could decide the fate of the Far North Iron Mine

Canadian mining company Baffinland, which struck a deal with the Inuit to mine iron ore in 2014, now wants to double production and even build a railway through traditional hunting grounds. For many Inuit, this idea pits jobs against environmental concerns.