NIRB acknowledges “inconsistency” in final Mary River report condition
The Nunavut Impact Review Board admits to "imperfect expression of the board’s intention"
It’s all straightened out now: the Nunavut Impact Review Board said Nov. 26 said it didn’t mean to puzzle federal ministers left with the job of deciding whether to approve the board’s recommendation that the Baffinland Mines Corp.’s Mary River iron mine project move ahead.
The NIRB acknowledged “imperfect expression of the board’s intention” in one of the 184 terms and conditions it said that Baffinland must observe if the Mary River project is permitted to go ahead.
John Duncan, minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, said Nov. 20 that he and other federal ministers couldn’t sign off on their review of the project because they needed clarification about a term contained in the NIRB’s 354-page final hearing report.
That was number 41 of the 184 terms and conditions that Baffinland must observe.
Duncan and the ministers of Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada wanted to understand the meaning behind the condition’s statement that “the proponent shall maintain a minimum 100-metre naturally-vegetated buffer between the high-water mark of any fish-bearing water bodies and any permanent infrastructure.”
If the Mary River project goes ahead, that condition, as worded, would prohibit the construction of “key infrastructure,” such as the rail line, pump houses, access roads and other necessary work needed by the mine, Duncan said, giving the NIRB until Nov. 27 to say what it had meant by that condition.
On Nov. 26 the NIRB said it “regretfully acknowledges that the choice of words ‘any permanent infrastructure’ contained in Term and Condition #41 does not adequately communicate the Board’s true intentions.”
“The board recognizes that if ‘any permanent infrastructure’ is construed to apply to the railway and roads, this term and condition would be potentially inconsistent with the evidence heard by the board that the railway would be constructed on the edge of several water bodies and with other terms and conditions,” said a letter signed by the NIRB’s acting chairperson Elizabeth Copland to Duncan.
“Clearly, it was not the intention of the board to introduce such inconsistency under Term and Condition #41.”
The NIRB said that condition 41 was not intended to apply broadly to all parts of the huge iron mine project, but only to permanent infrastructure with the potential for acid rock drainage or metal leaching.
The NIRB said it “regrets any difficulties this may have caused to participants in this process.”
“However, as all participants can appreciate, given the scale, scope and extent of the Board’s final hearing report and the timelines associated with its production, imperfect expressions of the board’s intention did occur, and the board appreciates the opportunity to provide clarity in this regard,” Copland told Duncan.
The NIRB said that if Duncan decides to accept its recommendation and approve the Mary River project, the board will make sure everyone understands the terms and conditions of the project certificate.