Baffinland must meet 184 terms and conditions on Mary River to proceed: NIRB
"Issues related to the marine environment are some of the most important issues that the Project will need to address"
If the Mary River iron mine project on northern Baffin Island moves ahead, the mine and its transportation system will be subject to stringent controls on every aspect of its operations, on land, sea and in the air.
Its owner, Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., will also be obliged to collaborate with people in local communities, regional organizations, and every level of government through committees like the Qikiqtaaluk Socio-Economic Monitoring Committee. That’s to ensure that collaboration and communication continue throughout the mine’s 21-year lifespan.
If the mine project proceeds, and the suggested mitigation and monitoring measures work, the result could be an Arctic mine that’s a model of co-operation and clean industrial development.
The Nunavut Impact Review Board, in its 354-page final hearing report, released Sept. 14 set out 184 terms and conditions that Baffinland must observe.
That NIRB report also includes an executive summary, in English, Inuktitut and French, which summarizes its recommendation to John Duncan, the federal minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, that the project proceed with conditions.
Baffinland, which saw the hearing report’s terms and conditions for the first time Sept. 14, is now evaluating what these mean for the company.
That large list of terms and conditions is not excessive for a large mining project, said Greg Missal, the company’s vice-president of corporate affairs, although in a Sept. 14 interview, shortly after seeing the hearing report, he was not prepared to offer more comment.
The Mary River project includes an open pit iron ore mine on northern Baffin Island, with infrastructure such as a tote road between Milne Inlet and a mine site at Mary River, ports at Milne Inlet and Steensby Inlet and a railway connecting the mine to the Steensby port.
Iron ore will be transported from the mine site on the railway to the port at Steensby Inlet, with year-round shipping of ore through Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait to markets in Europe using huge custom-designed ore carriers — for at least 20 years.
The NIRB report lists the terms and conditions that Baffinland will have to meet if it plans to proceed with the huge project.
Baffinland will have to produce plans to mitigate — and then monitor — the mine’s impacts on the land, air, water, people, animals and birds, the NIRB said, in its hearing report that followed years of assessments and hearings, including a series of final hearings this past July in Iqaluit, Igloolik and Pond Inlet.
“The board views the issues related to the marine environment as some of the most important issues that the Project will need to address moving forward,” said the hearing report.
The NIRB supported recommendations from groups like the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the need for more sea ice and ship wake modelling. The NIRB said it also wants to see additional assessment of activities such as dredging and blasting.
Some of other 184 terms and conditions touch on:
• shipping, which will see quantity and routes of ore carriers strictly regulated and directed to avoid marine wildlife. The report states there can be no more than 20 ore carrier transits to Steensby Port per month during the open water season and 242 transits per year in total. “When marine mammals appear to be trapped or disturbed by vessel movements, the vessel will implement appropriate measures to mitigate disturbance, including stoppage of movement until wildlife have moved away from the immediate area,” the NIRB said.
• wildlife, with calls for intensive monitoring and mitigation measures to protect wildlife, like caribou, wolves and birds. There must be “steps taken to prevent caribou mortality and injury as a result of train and vehicular traffic, including operational measures meant to maximize the potential for safe traffic relative to operations on the railway, Milne Inlet tote road and associated access roads.”
• training, including the development of manpower and training plans, particularly with respect to how the mine will accommodate women and achieve gender equality in the workplace. Baffinland did not give “adequate consideration to how it will source the labour (both skilled and unskilled) at levels it has estimated will be required for the project’s development, including the construction, operation, and closure phases,” the NIRB said.
• business incentives, so local businesses can take advantage of contracts in connection with the mine’s construction and operation. Baffinland and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association are “strongly encouraged to evaluate the effectiveness of any provisions within the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement which require that larger contracts be broken down into smaller contracts more accessible to local businesses,” the NIRB said.
• health and well-being, because the NIRB “feels that the Mary River project has the potential to have significant positive and negative impacts.” The NIRB wants to see a Human Health Working Group and the hiring of elders and mental health professionals to “provide counseling to Inuit and non-Inuit employees in order to positively contribute toward employee health and well-being. “
• communication with Makivik Corp., so that “regardless of whether Makivik Corporation participates as a member of the Marine Environment Working Group, the Marine Environment Working Group will provide Makivik Corporation with regular updates regarding the Group’s activities throughout the Project life cycle;”
• collaboration with the Government of Nunavut, because the NIRB said it recognizes that the project “may place increased demand upon existing services and infrastructure” provided by the GN and other service providers, such as health professionals and police. The NIRB said the GN will “,as soon as practical following the issuance of the Project Certificate, enter into discussions to negotiate a Development Partnership Agreement.”
In addition to the 184 terms and conditions spelled out in the NIRB report, Baffinland will also have to meet the other commitments it made during the final hearings, the NIRB said.