Pond Inlet surprised, but ready to work with Baffinland
“It was quite the surprise, the hamlet really wasn’t anticipating that announcement”
The Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River iron ore project, recently reduced from a plan to ship 18 million tonnes of ore year round to 3.5 million tonnes a year in the summer, will still benefit the North Baffin region, said Colin Saunders, the economic development officer in Pond Inlet.
With the corporation now planning to ship ore out of Milne Inlet — delaying plans for a railway at Steensby Inlet — Pond Inlet will be more affected than originally expected.
This comes after a Jan. 10 announcement that the huge project would be scaled back significantly due to “tight financial markets.”
“It was quite the surprise, the hamlet really wasn’t anticipating that announcement,” Saunders said.
But people are still hoping that the community and the company will have a good working relationship in the future, he said.
“We do have our outspoken people who have environmental concerns, but generally I think that a lot of community members are optimistic on the project still,” he said.
That’s because the hamlet has been working with the company since “day one,” Saunders said.
Even though the project might be moving forward a little bit more slowly than first thought, it’s good that Baffinland is moving ahead with it, Saunders said.
“There are other potential deposits around the world that are being put on the back burner. In my mind it’s a good thing that Baffinland is still focusing on developing the project,” he said.
As Pond Inlet’s economic development officer, Saunders wants to maintain the positive partnerships that the community and the company has had, he said.
That means economic benefits to people, such as employment opportunities and other contracts.
Considering the potentially positive economic spin-offs for the North Baffin region, the Mary River project can help businesses in the Arctic, he said.
And those opportunities can last for a longer period of time, “should everybody come to an agreement on what’s going to happen out at the site.”
“If permits are lined up and if regional Inuit organizations with the communities can sign off on an [IIBA], then hopefully we can see what other positive benefits can come through,” Saunders said.
But Ryan Barry, executive director of the Nunavut Impact Review Board, said he can’t yet comment on what direction the board will take in its response to Baffinland’s announcement.
The NIRB plans to send a letter to governments and agencies on its distribution lists, who are involved with the project, outlining what the board will need to do.
The board recently issued a project certificate to Baffinland for the Mary River project last year, late in December.
The NIRB’s next moves will be explained in the letter, which allows an “opportunity for public comment,” Barry said.
However, Baffinland’s decision to postpone a significant portion of the project under a “phased approach” wasn’t anticipated, he said.