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Feds sidestep Nunavut Planning Commission as Baffinland proposal goes to enviro review

by Greg Klein | July 14, 2015

In a decision sure to stir controversy, Ottawa has exempted a Baffinland Iron Mines proposal from the Nunavut Planning Commission. Despite the NPC’s opposition, the plan moves on to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which will conduct an environmental and socio-economic study prior to recommending a pass or fail.

Feds sidestep Nunavut Planning Commission as Baffinland proposal goes to environmental review

After radically scaling back plans for its Mary River mine,
Baffinland now wants to expand arctic shipping.

The company’s Phase II proposal would expand shipping its Baffin Island port to 10 months a year, requiring icebreaking facilities. The NPC opposed the plan out of concern for wildlife harvesting, traditional activities and community travel routes. In May Baffinland asked Ottawa’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for an exemption from the NPC decision. That was granted in a July 13 letter from Minister Bernard Valcourt.

He stressed that Baffinland must meet the requirements of the environmental impact assessment, otherwise “the project proposal will of course fail at that stage.”

Although Inuit groups argued against the proposal, Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna “stressed the importance of 260 jobs, millions of dollars of wages and benefits as well as other future benefits that might flow from this project proposal,” Valcourt stated. “Premier Taptuna was concerned that any delay might put these benefits at risk. This concern is particularly acute if, as suggested by Baffinland, the economic viability of the existing Baffinland project depends on the Phase II project proposal. We must consider not only the risks of proceeding, but also the risks of not proceeding.”

We must consider not only the risks of proceeding, but also the risks of not proceeding.—Bernard Valcourt, Minister of
Aboriginal Affairs and
Northern Development

The operation is owned 50/50 by Iron Ore Holdings and project operator ArcelorMittal. Baffinland drastically downsized its Mary River plans in January 2013, just weeks after getting environmental approval for what would have been a $4-billion project. The company began mining in September the following year, trucking its first load of iron ore 100 kilometres to a port under construction at Milne Inlet. The original plan called for shipping to Europe year-round, the revised plan for three summer months and now Phase II proposes 10 months.

Following the NIRB review, the board will recommend Valcourt approve or reject Baffinland’s proposal.

Last week AREVA Resources Canada and its joint venture partners asked Valcourt to disregard the NIRB’s negative review of the proposed Kiggavik uranium mine near Baker Lake.

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