Mining companies are delaying cancellations due to take effect on Sunday as NIRB recommends higher shipping limit
Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. has pushed back the date it was supposed to begin laying off its employees at the Mary River Mine. The move came Thursday after the Nunavut Impact Review Board issued a favorable recommendation on the company’s request for a higher iron ore shipping limit.
The mining company can prevent “potentially significant adverse ecosystem and socioeconomic impacts” if it improves adaptive management and monitoring programs, Chief Executive Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq wrote in a letter to German Minister for Northern Affairs Daniel Vandal on Thursday.
The final decision on whether to approve Baffinland’s request to ship six million tons of iron ore this year instead of 4.2 million tons will be made by Vandal.
The company had warned earlier this year that without the higher limit it would have no work for its employees and would start laying off them.
Baffinland had scheduled its first round of layoffs for September 25 – Sunday.
With NIRB’s announcement, that was pushed back to October 20, when Vandal had “indicated” he will be able to make his decision, Baffinland spokesman Peter Akman said on Thursday.
“The NIRB recommendation clearly recognizes the importance of Baffinland to Nunavut’s economy and that allowing the company to continue manufacturing will preserve hundreds of high-paying jobs,” Akman wrote in an email.
“We urge the federal government to follow the NIRB recommendation and allow Baffinland to continue operating at current levels.”
Baffinland originally planned two rounds of layoffs on September 25 and October 11 to lay off 1,100 employees.
Vandal spokesman Kyle Allen said in an email to Nunatsiaq News he could not give the minister a timeline for publishing his decision before the board’s recommendation is published.
“A decision will be made after appropriate due diligence and analysis, including whether the duty of consultation has been complied with,” Allen wrote.
As of 2018, Baffinland shipped six million tons of iron ore annually. However, this permit expired in December and has since been limited to 4.2 million tons annually.
In May, Baffinland asked Vandal to ask the review board to agree to increase its shipping limit back to six million tonnes for the 2022 shipping season.
When Vandal said he could not do that, Baffinland asked him to issue an emergency order that would replace the board by certifying that an emergency existed.
The emergency was that if the company couldn’t ship six million tons in 2022, it would lay off more than 1,300 employees – including at least 209 Inuit – which would also hurt the jobs of 400 contractors.
Vandal denied that request on June 1.
Meanwhile, on May 20, the company had started the NIRB review process.
NIRB accepted responses to technical concerns from government agencies, conservation groups and Inuit organizations between July 19 and August 9, and hosted a remotely accessible community roundtable on August 16 in Pond Inlet.
Now Baffinland and those organizations are waiting while Vandal reviews NIRB’s recommendation and then decides whether to increase the company’s shipping limit.