Baffinland seeks faster NIRB process

by Michele LeTourneau- June 11, 2018

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. wants the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) to streamline its process to avoid the company having to take unfortunate steps, such as reducing staff, it stated in a June 6 letter to the regulator.

photo courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.
Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. is asking the Nunavut Impact Review Board to change its project certificate by September to avoid slowing operations and reducing the workforce.

“To deliver the permitted quantities of iron ore to markets for the early revenue phase, Baffinland has developed a strong and committed workforce. As of 2017 this workforce demonstrated its growing efficiency by producing and delivering more iron ore to Milne Port than was initially planned for,” stated director of sustainable development Megan Lord-Hoyle.

The company says it can now produce and deliver 6 Mt/a (megatonnes per annum) rather than the approved 4.2 Mt/a.

“Unfortunately, without the flexibility in Project Certificate 005 to transfer more than 4.2 Mt/a of iron ore from the mine site to global markets, Baffinland now finds itself in a position of having to idle operations and reduce its workforce for a portion of each year starting in 2018,” stated Lord-Hoyle.

NIRB executive director Ryan Barry says it’s not unusual for proponents to offer suggestions on process.

“Proponents and others will often write in with their advice/suggestions on how they feel an application should be considered in terms of applicable process. The NIRB is open to consider all such suggestions, but of course is in no way bound by them,” Barry stated via e-mail.

If Baffinland’s proposed timeline is followed, with NIRB providing a certificate amendment in September, there would be no idling of operations or workforce reductions.

In her letter, Lord-Hoyle says a number of terms and conditions already exist that address the potential effects of ore transportation. Additionally, she notes the company has consulted the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA), and has a mutual plan which includes community engagement to look at mitigation, monitoring and potential Inuit benefits due to increased Baffinland operations.

“This plan was presented to the Hamlet of Pond Inlet on June 4 for consideration and comment and while the details of this process are still being confirmed, there will be several additional visits to Pond Inlet to engage the community for related yet distinct purposes. The intent is for QIA to hold a series of meetings culminating with QIA outlining their views to the NIRB on July 30,” she stated.

Ultimately, Barry explained, Baffinland wishes to construct a new camp at Milne Inlet and add to its fuel capacity there, to go along with an increase in the amount of ore hauled up the tote road and shipped out during the open water season from 4.2 Mt/a to 6 Mt/a.

“There’s two terms and conditions of their NIRB Project Certificate which limit increasing the ore hauled and shipped to 4.2 MT/a explicitly, so to be allowed to undertake these activities the NIRB would have to formally update the Project Certificate to change the terms and conditions, which we call a ‘reconsideration’ under our legislation.”

Barry further notes this NIRB process is not legislated and is carried out at the board’s discretion.

“Baffinland’s contention is that they’ve gotten better at hauling ore and need to haul/ship an increased amount to sell more ore and raise capital and avoid layoffs, as they would have no work to do in the winter if they haul all the ore they’re allowed to by the fall.”

NIRB is also considering a Phase 2 proposal from Baffinland.

“Which is substantially larger and involves building a railway north from the mine site and increasing the tonnage hauled/shipped to 12Mt/a, so the process for this 6 Mt/a Proposal also has to be considered alongside the process for the larger Phase 2 Proposal,” said Barry.

However, in her letter, Lord-Hoyle says the two requests should be considered separately.

NIRB will provide formal direction on the matter in the coming days, Barry said.

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