The Nunavut Impact Review Board has recommended against Baffinland’s proposed Phase 2 expansion at Mary River Mine in North Baffin.

Kaviq Kaluraq, chairperson of NIRB, said the project has the potential to have adverse environmental impacts on marine and terrestrial wildlife, as well as the wider environmental impacts Phase Two could have outside of the Nunavut Settlement Area.

“These potential significant adverse effects cannot be adequately prevented, mitigated, or adaptive managed under proposed mitigation, adaptive management and monitoring programs and/or revisions (to the project certificate),” Kaluraq wrote.

This is a part of a long, multi-year process which saw several community consultations as well as public hearings. It has faced numerous delays both due to Covid-19 and community concerns on the project, over two dozen registered intervenors including Inuit organizations, government agencies, regulators, community groups and non-governmental organizations.

Phase 2 proposes a railway be built to Milne Inlet, as well as an increase from six tonnes of iron ore to 12 tonnes being shipped out each year, with eventual plans to increase that amount.

The company has touted a number of mitigation and adaptive management measures to reassure communities in North Baffin.

Baffinland CEO Brian Penney said the company was “disappointed in the NIRB recommendation” in a press release later that evening.

“Our Phase 2 proposal is based on years of in-depth study and detailed scientific analysis, and has considerable local support based on years of consultation with Inuit and local communities. We will be asking the federal government to consider all of the evidence and input and to approve the Phase 2 application.”

In early February 2021, a number of residents from Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet set up a blockade at Mary River Mine to protest the environmental impacts of the mine. Particularly when it comes to the impact of iron ore dust on caribou herds and narwhal populations.

The ball is now in Northern Affairs’ court and it will be up to the federal ministry whether or not NIRB’s recommendation be taken into account when they make their decision.

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