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Shipping increase approved; Baffinland won’t terminate workers

By David Venn

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Baffinland Iron Mines will “immediately  be rescinding all termination notices” issued to 1,100 employees after federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal approved its request to increase its shipping limit this year, a company spokesperson said Tuesday.

Vandal’s decision sided with the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s recommendation, made Sept. 22, that the company should be allowed to increase its iron ore shipments to six million tonnes from 4.2 million this year at the Mary River mine.

“Given the timing constraints inherent to the project proposal ?

I urge the Board to issue the amended Project Certificate as soon as possible,” Vandal wrote in his letter Tuesday to NIRB chairperson Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq.

Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman said Vandal’s decision recognizes the company’s importance in the territory, where it is the largest private-sector employer.

“Baffinland is committed to responsible operation and believes we can operate in a manner that protects the environment while creating economic prosperity and building stronger communities,” he wrote in a statement.

Over the summer, Baffinland began the process to fire more than

1,100 employees from the mine, saying there wouldn’t be enough work to keep them employed if Vandal didn’t direct NIRB to give the company the permit for a shipping limit increase.

Those terminations were originally scheduled to begin Sept. 25, but with the positive NIRB recommendation Baffinland pushed it back to Oct. 20.

On Tuesday, Akman told Nunatsiaq News those plans are now off.

Baffinland had been shipping six million tonnes of iron ore per year since 2018. That permit expired in December 2021, and since then it has been limited to 4.2 million tonnes annually.

The company tried two different avenues in May to work around requiring a review to increase its shipping, but Vandal denied both.

Vandal instead told the company to go through the NIRB process, which Baffinland did, and told NIRB to treat the company’s application as a priority.

In his letter, Vandal said the Qikiqtani Inuit Association reached out to Vandal on Sept. 26, four days after NIRB gave its recommendation, to inform him the association and Baffinland had met and agreed on more commitments.

Vandal asked the board to create an appendix that would serve as a list of all project commitments under the Mary River mine.

Baffinland and the QIA have agreed to hiring a third party to ensure the commitments are met, Vandal said.

These include making the environmental monitoring groups work better, recognizing trails that hunters use, and auditing dust impact reports, Vandal said.

The company still awaits a decision on its Phase 2 proposal to ship 12 million tonnes of iron ore per year through the Tallurutiup Imanga marine conservation area, which would involve building an additional dock at the Milne Inlet port and constructing a 110-km railway line.

That application received a negative recommendation from NIRB and is currently sitting with Vandal, with a decision expected by late fall.

`Through extensive consultation with our stakeholders, we believe we have put forward a strong application that addresses Inuit concerns,” Akman wrote.

 David Venn is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter who works for the

NUNATSIAQ NEWS. The LJI program is federally funded. Aboriginal Business Magazine does not receive LJI funding.

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