In the tug of war between mining company Baffinland Iron Mines and land claims organization Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) over when regulatory hearings for Baffinland’s Mary River expansion proposal should resume, the board responsible for the hearings has chosen March for initial steps.
Baffinland suggested that the hearings pick up again in April, after Easter. NTI President Aluki Kotierk, who prompted the suspension of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) hearings for Baffinland in early November, asked for postponement of nine months to a year so parties could gather more answers and information.
NIRB has chosen to host a five-day technical meeting in March. That will be followed by a three-day, in-person pre-hearing conference and community roundtable. Among the issues to be addressed will be the timeline, venue and format for the hearings to continue.
The review board also indicated it will be “coordinating its consideration” of Baffinland’s request for a year’s extension of its six-million tonnes per year production rate while the phase two development proposal is under assessment. The mining company previously had a production limit of 4.2-million tonnes of iron ore. The increase to six million tonnes, which was announced in October 2018, was granted for one year.
Baffinland is seeking to double production to 12 million tonnes at the Mary River mine, 160 km south of Pond Inlet, in relation to its phase two plans. It’s also aiming to build a 110-km railway between the mine and Milne Inlet.
NIRB’s Dec. 16 news release stated that the review board “took special consideration
of issues raised by parties, especially the significant financial and employment implications to Baffinland and the affected communities, the associated participant funding process, seasonal activities in the most affected communities, and the breadth of outstanding technical issues and requirement for translations.”
Baffinland laid off 586 contract employees, including 96 Inuit workers, in November when it became clear that regulatory hearings would extend longer than anticipated.