Mary River project good for Nunavut and Inuit, Baffinland boss says
“Relationship between the company and the Inuit is key to the project”
The Mary River iron project is good not only for Nunavut and Inuit, but good for all of Canada, Baffinland president and CEO Tom Paddon told witnesses and interveners on the first day of the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s final hearings on the project, held inside a packed Iqaluit cadet hall July 16.
Baffinland, owned by the European-based steel giant Arcelor Mittal, proposes to extract 21 million tonnes of iron ore a year over 21 years from the Mary River site.
“Mary River represents a significant expenditure for our company,” he said.
Baffinland’s goal is to conduct their development in a responsible and overall sustainable way, which would include the construction of a railway to ship ore to a port at Steensby Inlet, Paddon said.
Baffinland representative Richard Cook said the Steensby Inlet port is “the only viable port for the project.”
However, Paddon maintains the project is good for the company as well as for Inuit and for Inuit organizations.
“This relationship between the company and the Inuit is key to the project,” he said.
He said his expectation is that, over time, investments on both sides will be worth it, which is why the environmental assessment phase is crucial.
“Inuit must understand as much as possible what the project means,” Paddon said.
The company is fortunate to be able to draw on information and studies from open pit iron ore mines in Labrador, he said.
“It is an undisputed fact that in mining development the largest expenditure[s] occur early on,” he said.
The same is to be said for Inuit investment. Baffinland wants to be respectful of Inuit culture, Paddon said.
The project is an “opportunity to improve education levels,” as well as an opportunity to provide diversity that can build “stronger and healthier communities,” Paddon said.
“This is not just unselfish altruism,” he said, adding that Baffinland will operate in Nunavut for many years.
“It is often many years before a mining company sees a return,” he said.
Inuit have a vested interest in seeing the Mary River project go forward, Paddon said.
To date, Baffinland has worked diligently on informing people about what they are doing by taking them to the site and holding public meetings, he said.
The company, then, is very much aware that community involvement is not just important at the beginning of the project, Paddon said.
As well, it would benefit all provinces and territories in the country.
“We see this as a good project for all of Canada.”