NIRB seeks comment on Baffinland’s new Mary River plan
Scaled back mine plan could trigger more hearings
The Nunavut Impact Review Board will hold a public commenting period to determine whether a reconsideration of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s project certificate for the Mary River iron ore project, awarded last December, is necessary, Elizabeth Copland, NIRB chairperson, said Jan. 14 in a news release.
If so, they will seek approval from John Duncan, the northern development minister, to reconsider the certificate’s terms and conditions,
That decision comes after Baffinland submitted a Jan. 10 letter to the NIRB requesting amendments to the recently issued project certificate.
That’s because they’ve radically scaled back their plans and will eliminate a planned Steensby Inlet railway and port, as well as the year-round shipping of up to 18 million tonnes of iron ore through Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait.
Instead, in a phased approach, Baffinland will produce only 3.5 million tonnes of iron ore and ship it through Milne Inlet, to the north of the mine site, from July to October only.
The rest of the project would be developed only in a “second phase.” The company has not been able to say when that second phase would occur.
“Although the NIRB issued the project certificate only recently this past December, the board understands that development of large capital-intensive projects occasionally result in unforeseen changes and requirements for project amendments,” she said.
If approved, the project certificate could contain new or amended terms and conditions.
However, if the decision were made not to allow the amendment to proceed, this would have no effect on the approval of the original Mary River project and Baffinland would be permitted to continue development of the project under the terms and conditions of the original project certificate, Copland said.
The NIRB maintains that it’s important for the company to go ahead with the licensing of the full Mary River project as reviewed and approved by the NIRB while the proposed amendment is considered, Copland said.
The NIRB is now required to give due consideration to Baffinland’s request for a reconsideration of the project certificate, pursuant to the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
If the project certificate is reopened, Baffinland would have to update its final environmental impact statement and provide the NIRB with all relevant information related to the amended activities and associated effects assessments, she said.
That would result in a public review of the application, which would include technical meetings, and written or oral hearings as deemed necessary.
The timelines for a reconsideration of the terms and conditions of a project certificate are significantly shorter than those for the original review of the project.
“However sufficient opportunity for public notice and participation is provided for in accordance with the NIRB’s rules of procedure,” Copland said.
The NIRB has circulated its correspondence with Baffinland to all parties on its email distribution list in order to provide further direction and a chance for public comment regarding the amendment request.
In the draft EIS for the Mary River Project, Baffinland had included a “road haulage option” as an alternative means of developing the project.
The alternative proposed that during the initial years of project development, the company would construct all mine facilities and would begin mining and shipment of a smaller amount of iron ore through Milne Inlet during the open water period, prior to construction of a railway south to a port site at Steensby Inlet.
“This was presented by Baffinland as a means to generate revenue earlier in the project lifecycle allowing for more immediate development, while to develop the larger project and railway would require additional partnering,” Copland said in the release.
But Baffinland withdrew the road haulage option following consideration of the feasibility study for the project released in January 2011.
That’s because of concerns about creating potential “process delays” should the road haulage option become the preferred means of carrying out the project.
Baffinland is now proceeding through licensing of the Mary River project as reviewed and approved by the NIRB, but it is also asking that consideration be given once again to the “early revenue phase” involving shipment of iron ore through Milne Inlet.
The goal would be to allow for earlier revenue prior to full development of the Mary River project.