Canadian federal minister rejects Nunavut mine growth

Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, seen right here in a file picture, has rejected Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Section 2 Mary River mine growth proposal. (Nunatsiaq Information file picture)

Federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal has rejected Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s plan to construct a railroad and double its annual transport output from its Mary River mine.

“The period of Ottawa overriding Indigenous nations, Indigenous governments for useful resource growth tasks within the North, is over,” Vandal mentioned Wednesday in an interview with Nunatsiaq Information.

The Liberal cupboard minister launched his determination on the growth proposal, generally known as Section 2, on Wednesday night in a letter to Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq, chairperson of the Nunavut Affect Evaluate Board, the group chargeable for advising the federal authorities concerning the social and financial impacts of growth within the territory.

Vandal mentioned he agreed with the board’s conclusion earlier this 12 months that Baffinland couldn’t correctly mitigate or handle potential results on the setting, wildlife and fish habitats if the mine had been to increase.

As northern affairs minister, Vandal will get the ultimate say on NIRB’s advice, although he consulted with 4 different federal cupboard ministers.

“The opposite accountable ministers and I’ve fastidiously thought of the board’s report … and enter from the designated Inuit organizations, and have determined … to just accept the board’s advice that Section 2 mustn’t proceed right now,” he mentioned within the letter.

The corporate needs to construct a 110-kilometer railroad between its Mary River mine and Milne Inlet, double its transport restrict of iron ore to 12 million tonnes per 12 months from 6 million and construct an extra dock on the Milne Inlet port.

The evaluate board assessed that proposal for roughly 4 years, with a number of in-person conferences held in Iqaluit and Pond Inlet.

It concluded in Could that the challenge mustn’t go forward as a result of doable detrimental impacts on wildlife and fish habitats couldn’t be “adequately prevented, mitigated, or adaptively managed.”

Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman didn’t reply to Nunatsiaq Information’ questions concerning the way forward for the mine Wednesday night, however mentioned the corporate would launch an announcement Thursday.

Baffinland is the territory’s largest personal sector employer with greater than 2,600 employees and accounted for 23 per cent of Nunavut’s financial exercise in 2019.

The corporate has mentioned it must increase its Mary River mine to make it financially viable.

Baffinland first turned its consideration towards Milne Inlet in January 2013 when, one month after then-Northern Affairs Minister John Duncan permitted plans for a 149-kilometer railway to Steensby Inlet, the corporate introduced it wanted to lift cash to fund that route.

The corporate wished to lift the cash by trucking 3.5 million tonnes of iron ore per 12 months to Milne Inlet and transport it by what’s now the Tallurutiup Imanga Nationwide Marine Conservation Space.

These plans advanced: Since that point, firm executives have mentioned that Baffinland needs to have a mine that’s allowed to ship 30 million tonnes of iron ore annually: 12 million tonnes out of Milne Inlet and 18 million tonnes from Steensby Inlet.

Within the interview Wednesday, Vandal pointed to 2 causes for his determination to show down Section 2.

“The [NIRB] report was very, very clear,” he mentioned, noting the impacts on “vegetation and contemporary water, which might negatively impression Inuit harvesting … and meals for years and years.

“There was no affordable method, as per the science, to mitigate it.”

In his letter, Vandal mentioned the Qikiqtani Inuit Affiliation and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. wrote to him on Oct. 25, months after NIRB’s public listening to had ended, to say that they and north Baffin hunters agree the potential impacts to wildlife can be too extreme if Baffinland’s plan went forward.

Vandal mentioned their lack of help performed into his determination.

“The land that the mine is on isn’t Crown land; it’s Inuit-owned land,” he mentioned. “These, for me, had been probably the most salient causes.”

His division needed to stability the financial impacts whereas guaranteeing Inuit rights had been upheld, he mentioned.

Vandal mentioned he needs Baffinland to proceed working with the Inuit organizations and ranges of presidency to enhance its proposal.

“I wish to encourage [Baffinland] to proceed working with Inuit rights holders, to work with CanNor and to attempt to proceed the nice momentum they’ve,” he mentioned.

“We’re specializing in creating jobs, defending jobs and guaranteeing the Nunavut Settlement and Inuit rights are revered.”