The Nunavut Impact Review board has recommended Baffinland’s Phase 2 expansion not be be allowed to proceed.
The long-awaited recommendation was released on Friday, in a four-year review process which has pitted economic development against environmental protections and the sustainability of traditional hunting.
The decision ultimately rests with Dan Vandal, the federal northern affairs minister. Vandal has previously said he will come to a decision within 90 days of NIRB’s recommendation.
The Mary River mine has been operating on north Baffin Island since 2015 and is currently allowed to extract and ship up to six million tonnes of ore per year.
Baffinland is requesting to double its shipping of iron ore from its Milne Inlet port to 12 million tonnes a year, and build a 110-kilometre railway to the port.
Baffinland has made a myriad of promises to nearby communities in connection with the expansion proceeding, including jobs, money, environmental monitoring programs, boats, daycares, training centres and more.
The company has also committed to gradually increasing shipping over four years from when Phase 2 is approved, and banning the use of heavy fuel oil seven years before it’s to be outlawed in Canada’s Arctic.
Many of the commitments are tied to a $1 billion Inuit Certainty Agreement Baffinland signed with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association in 2020, contingent on the expansion proceeding.
Still, QIA chose not to support the expansion, citing a lack of trust among communities, and uncertainty about whether new proposed mitigation measures will actually work with a larger mining operation.
However Baffinland has also warned the mine’s viability is at stake, should the expansion not proceed.
More to come.
WATCH | Inuit on Baffin Island could decide fate of far north iron ore mine: