Northern Affairs ministry says it's reviewing Baffinland's emergency request

·2 min read
The federal government said it's reviewing Baffinland's request for an emergency order so that it can continue to truck and ship 6 million tonnes of ore this year from its Mary River mine in Nunavut. (Nick Murray/CBC - image credit)
The federal government said it's reviewing Baffinland's request for an emergency order so that it can continue to truck and ship 6 million tonnes of ore this year from its Mary River mine in Nunavut. (Nick Murray/CBC - image credit)

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal had rejected Baffinland's request for an emergency order to increase the mine's shipping limit. In fact, the company's request for an emergency declaration allowing the increase is still under review by the minister's office. 

The office of the minister of Northern Affairs says it is still reviewing Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation's request for an emergency order to allow the company to truck and ship six million tonnes of iron ore for the rest of the year.

A request for the emergency declaration was sent to Minister Dan Vandal's office on May 26.

An previous request to the same office on May 20, which asked Vandal to increase the permit, was rejected, with the minister noting he had no such authority, and that the company should instead make the request directly to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

It's not clear when the office will make a decision.

Kyle Allen, a spokesperson for the ministry, said in an email that Baffinland has since submitted a request to NIRB to continue to extract six million tones of ore per year from its Mary River mine in Nunavut.

"We encourage the proponent to continue doing the work they promised ... work with partners in a responsible way, respect the independent NIRB process," Allen wrote.

Since 2018, Baffinland has been granted temporary approval to increase production from 4.2 million tonnes to six million tonnes, but that expired on Dec. 31.

At the time, Baffinland didn't formally apply to the Nunavut Impact Review Board to extend its extraction limit. Baffinland said the reason it didn't submit a request sooner was because of COVID-19.

Earlier this month, NIRB recommended Baffinland's Phase 2 expansion not be allowed to proceed. That decision followed a four-year review process that pitted economic development against environmental protections and the sustainability of traditional hunting.

NIRB's chair said at the time in a letter to Vandal that the mine has the potential for "significant adverse ecosystemic effects" on marine mammals, fish, caribou and other wildlife, which in turn could harm Inuit culture, land use and food security.

QIA not happy to hear of possible layoffs

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association said it isn't happy to hear that employees working at Baffinland's Mary River Project could be issued lay-off notices.

Baffinland said last week over 1,300 employees — including 209 Inuit — will be laid off if its emergency request order is not approved.

Olayuk Akesuk, the president of QIA, said the organization is dismayed that Baffinland was not better prepared to submit a formal application.

"I think it's important that we work with Baffinland to find out ways to try and go ahead with the mining in the future," he said.

"But in the meantime, we're very sad that there'll be layoffs."

Akesuk said QIA will continue to communicate with impacted Inuit and communities.

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