After rejection of the expansion, Baffinland turns to Steensby Rail
Baffinland Iron Mines is relaunching a plan, shelved years ago, to rail ore from its Mary River mine in Nunavut south to Steensby Inlet.
The announcement follows a decision by Minister for Northern Affairs Dan Vandal in November to reject the company’s Phase 2 expansion proposal. This plan would have envisaged the construction of a 100 km railway line from the mine north to Milne Inlet. The company is currently using a cul-de-sac to ship ore to this port.
Baffinland CEO Brian Penney announced the new plan at a conference in Ottawa earlier this month.
“Our focus over the next 18 months is to begin the transition to a southern railroad operation. At this moment we are working passionately to secure the funding needs to get the Steensby project up and running,” said Penney at the Northern Lights Conference and Exhibition.
“That’s been our plan all along, and the Phase 2 expansion was a step toward that plan.”
The proposal to build a railway south to Steensby Inlet was approved a decade ago when the mine was given the green light. It would have included a year-round deep-water port and ice-breaking ore transporters navigating the Foxe Basin.
However, Baffinland soon changed its plans – saying it could not raise the money to build the Steensby railway – and opted for a road and harbor in Milne Inlet.
Penney says the railroad south to Steensby is about five times more expensive than the one Baffinland wanted to build to Milne Inlet.
Now, Penney says, things have changed. He says the company has now demonstrated the size of the resource and potential mine life – making it easier to raise capital.
Penney also says the mine’s high-grade iron ore requires less processing, making it vital given “the global need and growing willingness to reduce its carbon footprint.”
“While other metals are also critical, green steel is needed in virtually every aspect of this shift. And green steel is critically dependent on high-grade ore. Which puts Nunavut at the heart of everything.”
Baffinland spokesman Peter Akman said the Steensby plan was already approved under the company’s existing project certificate and water license. He said the company must now apply for some additional permits for the railway and port infrastructure at Steensby.
A statement from Minister Vandal’s office confirmed the earlier approval of the Steensby plan.
“The southern route through Steensby Inlet was previously approved through the relevant review process and we are encouraged by Baffinland’s continued engagement with local communities and Inuit partners,” the statement said.
Nunavut MP Lori Idlout predicts the new plan will cause major concern in surrounding communities.
She said the rejection of the Phase 2 proposal should have been a signal to Baffinland “that they need to work better with Inuit”.
“And obviously with that announcement, it sounds like they don’t plan to.”