Baffinland reps field questions on risk, socio-economics
“If there is a spill, Baffinland will be ready”
The second day of the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s final public hearings on the Mary River iron mine project on July 17 continued with unfinished business originally scheduled for the first day, as representatives from the Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. finished presenting evidence from their environmental impact statement.
And in their evidence Baffinland continued to insist that risks associated with the project’s transportation system are low, especially the risk of fuel spills.
“For the final impact statement, the risk of a spill is low,” said Fernand Beaulac, Baffinland environmental health and safety system consultant.
But Baffinland representatives were peppered with questions from the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., and Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
Baffinland representatives responded by saying they have emergency clean-up plans in place in the “unlikely” event that one will occur.
But they admitted their current techniques for dealing with a spill are “not optimal for recovery on the ice.”
The highest risk would be a ship engine failure at sea, which Baffinland lists only as a possible risk, based on its research.
An incident could occur with the railway between the port and the mine site, Beaulac said, but he said the risk of a fuel spill from a rail shipment is low.
That’s because of the stringent emergency preparedness plan that the company would put in place, he said.
“The risk of a spill is low or unlikely because of prevention methods incorporated in the project. If there is a spill, Baffinland will be ready,” Beaulac said.
The first phase of the mine is expected to last 21 years and generate revenue of $3 to $5 billion, while creating 950 jobs.
Baffinland said they are committed to hiring Inuit. Employees would still be flown back and forth southern cities, however, but this would bring economic opportunity and growth to Iqaluit according to vice president for corporate affairs at Baffinland Erik Madsen.
The indirect effects of the project would include more jobs and higher incomes, and food might also become more affordable, Baffinland said.
Anne Pearce, who is responsible for human resources at Baffinland, said a human resources management plan is in place, offering training, education, and career advancement for Inuit.
Pearce also said Baffinland would be an alcohol- and drug-free zone, and that professional counselling would be available for workers and their families as part of a employee family assistance program.
The company said an elder would always be on site if there are problems that Inuit experience while working at the mine.
Baffinland representatives also said if archeological findings are found during construction, work would be halted, if necessary, to investigate the findings.