COVID-19 puts Baffinland regulatory process in limbo

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Not even teleconferences, which are growing in popularity because of COVID-19, are going to move forward Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River phase two expansion proposal at this time.

Technical meetings for Baffinland’s Mary River phase two expansion proposal are postponed until further notice.
photo courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines

The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) announced on Wednesday that complications from the precautionary health and safety measures being taken across the territory and elsewhere — including office, school and daycare closures — “could impact the ability of parties to participate fully in scheduled teleconferences.”

“Recognizing these developments and the limitations on the participation of parties that may result, the board will not be issuing a revised schedule for formal technical teleconferences at this time,” reads a news release signed by NIRB executive director Ryan Barry. “Once these circumstances change or organizations have had sufficient time to adjust their operations to current conditions, the board will revisit its guidance regarding next steps.”

The technical hearings to get Baffinland’s phase two expansion review back on track were scheduled for March 16-25 in Iqaluit, but that was cancelled in light of COVID-19. Teleconferences were, for a short period, suggested as an alternative.

Public hearings in Iqaluit were suspended in November when Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated President Aluki Kotierk requested a lengthy break to obtain answers to questions and gather other pertinent information.

Barry urged the parties to use this further downtime to continue dialogue related to technical issues.

Baffinland is seeking to double production to 12 million tonnes at the Mary River iron mine, 160 km south of Pond Inlet, which would also increase shipping. The company is aiming to build a 110-km railway between the mine and Milne Inlet, as well.

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