Baffinland: Ottawa Rejects Plan to Expand Mary River Mine in Nunavut

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Baffinland: Ottawa rejects proposed expansion of Mary River mine in Nunavut

This decision concludes a four-year review process that pitted economic development against environmental protections and the sustainability of traditional hunting.

Minister Daniel Vandal rejects Baffinland's proposal to double its production of Mary River iron ore in eastern Nunavut.

Federal Minister of Northerner Daniel Vandal opposes Baffinland's expansion plan to double iron ore production at its Mary River mine in eastern Nunavut.

The decision was made public Wednesday on the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) website.

It concludes four years marked by numerous public consultations, protests and a lengthy environmental review process.

Although the final word was up to him, Daniel Vandal says he consulted four other federal ministers before making his decision, including the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Joyce Murray, and that of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault.

The other Responsible Ministers and I have carefully reviewed the Commission's report […] and the comments from Designated Inuit Organizations, and have decided […] to accept the Commission's recommendation that Phase 2 should not go ahead at this time, the minister said in a letter to CNER.

The Mary River mine is located some 176 kilometers southwest of the community of Pond Inlet, on Baffin Island.

Baffinland wanted to double its ore production of iron from 6 to 12 million tons per year, failing which it claimed to have to put its mine in a state of upkeep and maintenance.

This objective involved the construction of a railway of approximately 110 km to transport the ore between the mine site and the port of Milne Inlet, a few kilometers to the North, as well as a considerable increase in transport to the outside the region.

The second phase of the expansion project included the construction of a a hundred kilometer railway from the Mary River mine site to the port of Milne Inlet.

The expansion project has sparked several divisions, mainly pitting economic development against environmental protections and the sustainability of traditional hunting.

Among these concerns, hunters in Pond Inlet, on the north coast of Baffin Island, said narwhal numbers have declined since the Mary River mine began operations in 2015.

Over the past few years, the project has been subject to a lengthy environmental review process that ended with NIRB disagreeing with the expansion. Its recommendations, formulated in the light of public consultations, are compiled in a 441-page report published in May.

Public consultations on the second phase of the expansion project, in Iqaluit, in April 2021

In his letter on Wednesday, the Minister of Northern Affairs said that he agreed with the Panel's conclusion that Baffinland was unable to adequately mitigate the negative environmental consequences of the mine.

The Panel concluded that Phase 2 is likely to cause significant adverse ecosystem effects on marine mammals and fish, caribou and other terrestrial wildlife, and vegetation and water. and that these effects could lead to significant negative socio-economic effects on Inuit hunting, culture, land use and food security in Nunavut, he noted.

The Minister also cited the transboundary effects of expansion on marine biodiversity outside of Nunavut.

“The Panel has concluded that these potential significant adverse effects cannot be adequately prevented, mitigated or managed under the proposed mitigation measures. .

— Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs

In the past, Ottawa has not followed the recommendation of the NIRB on a mining project.

In 2016, the Commission recommended that Federal Minister Carolyn Bennett, previously responsible for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, not approve the opening of the Black River gold mine , in western Nunavut. However, the Minister did not follow this recommendation and instead asked the Commission to reconsider its position.

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