Prepare for another review, Nunavut board tells Baffinland
“The circumstances relating to the project are now significantly different than were considered"
(updated at 4:05 p.m.)
One of the most scrutinized Nunavut mining projects to date — the Mary River iron mine in northern Baffin Island — now faces a new round of reports, comments and hearings.
That’s because after holding a public commenting period, the Nunavut Impact Review Board determined Feb. 11 that a reconsideration of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s project certificate for the Mary River iron ore project, awarded last December, is necessary.
“The circumstances relating to the project are now significantly different than were considered” when the board issued its final hearing report and recommendations in September 2012, and then issued a project certificate for the Mary River mine after John Duncan, the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, approved the project in December 2012.
Now, the decision means that the much smaller Mary River project, known as the “early revenue phase,” which Baffinland now wants to build as a cash-saving move, will face the same kind of review as the larger project, said the NIRB’s executive director Ryan Barry.
And the review will be on a smaller scale, Barry said.
The difference in the review process is that the “scope of what we’re looking at is much more finite,” Barry told Nunatsiaq News.
Here’s what will happen now: the NIRB will ask Baffinland to prepare a “comprehensive,” new section to its final environmental impact statement.
That may be followed by a public technical review period, public information sessions in “potentially affected communities” and possibly a meeting of technical experts. A review would also include a final hearing and community roundtable session — similar to those that took place last summer in Pond Inlet, Igloolik and Iqaluit.
Following the completion of these steps, the NIRB would prepare a new report for the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with any recommendations about amendments and additions to the terms and conditions of project certificate.
The Feb. 11 determination by the NIRB came after Baffinland submitted a Jan. 10 letter to the regulator requesting amendments to its project certificate.
The company said it wanted to delay 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, as part of an “early revenue phase,” Baffinland would produce only 3.5 million tonnes of iron ore, trucking it to Milne Inlet and shipping it out through Milne Inlet, to the north of the mine site, from July to October only.
But the NIRB determined that aspects of this new, smaller-scale approach hadn’t been included in the recent full technical review of the larger project by the parties and that it hadn’t been subject to public comment or approval by the various responsible authorities.
Among the comments received by the NIRB requesting a reconsideration of the project certificate:
• the Department of Fisheries and Oceans: “Many of the terms and conditions related to the marine environment and marine mammals would need to be reconsidered, particularly from the perspective of geographic application and adequacy and anticipate that new terms will need to be added;” and,
• Hamlet of Pond Inlet: “Amendments require public hearing as they were not dealt with at the Final Hearing for the project.”
Baffinland in its comment to the NIRB said that the company hopes the reconsideration will be completed by early in 2014 “to enable the potential decision for ore shipments in the summer of 2014.”
The Feb. 11 determination from the NIRB was what Baffinland expected to receive, said Greg Missal, Baffinland’s vice-president for corporate affairs.
Missal told Nunatsiaq News that Baffinland is pleased with the NIRB’s prompt attention to his company’s new approach of developing the Mary River mine in two phases, that is, the “early revenue phase,” to be followed later by the phase-in of the larger mine project.
“We’ve come up with a plan that allows the project to move forward,” Missal said.