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Canadian narwhals added to miners' headaches

Plans by Canadian miner Baffinland Iron Mine Corp to more than double its Mary River iron ore operation on Baffin Island in the Canadian Artic have been frozen by a review board on environmental grounds, including the potential adverse impact the development could have on narwhals and caribou.
Canadian narwhals added to miners' headaches Canadian narwhals added to miners' headaches Canadian narwhals added to miners' headaches Canadian narwhals added to miners' headaches Canadian narwhals added to miners' headaches

Mine expansion setback in Artic

After seven years of close work between Baffinland Iron Mine Corp and Inuit residents and Nunavummiut from the local Qikiqtani region, the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) has recommended to higher government authorities that the C$1.2 billion scheme in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago not be allowed to progress. 

Baffinland Iron Mine Corp had requested that NIRB approve its plans which would increase the quantity of ore shipped through Milne port to 12 million tonnes a year from 6 million tonnes, via the construction of a new railway. 

The firm, which is jointly owned by steel giant ArcelorMittal and began first phase operations in 2015, said it still would seek approvals from the federal government despite the ruling by the NIRB. 

"We will be asking the federal government to consider all of the evidence and input and to approve the … application with fair and reasonable conditions," said Baffinland chief executive Brian Penney. 

The NIRB's recommendation will be initially reviewed by the federal Ministry of Northern Affairs. 

Total mine production under the company's proposed plan will eventually increase to 30 million tonnes a year, with 12 million tonnes a year being transported via the North Railway to Milne Port and 18 million tonnes a year transported via the South Railway to Steensby Port. 

The firm in its submissions to the NIRB said of the phase 2 project is approved, royalties to Inuit would be conservatively estimated at C$2.4 billion based on the current size of the known mineral resource. 

The NIRB stressed the environmental impact of the scheme - which would expand one of the world's most northern mines -  on the Inuit community. 

"[The expansion] has the potential to result in significant adverse eco-systemic effects on marine mammals and fish, caribou, and other terrestrial wildlife," said NIRB chairwoman Kaviq Kaluraq. 

"And these effects could lead to associated significant adverse effects on Inuit harvesting, culture, land use and food security in Nunavut." 

The Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area is around 108,000 sq kms and is home to 75% of the world's narwhal population. It also provides essential habitat for 20% of Canada's beluga whale population and has the largest subpopulation of polar bears in Canada. 

Baffin Island is the largest island in Canada and is bigger than Spain. 

Environmental regulations are a problem for miners in the Americas and beyond. 

A US court last week ruled that US miner Hudbay Minerals could not advance its Rosemont copper-silver scheme on in Arizona on environmental grounds.

In Australia, the chuditch mammal has managed to delay a planned development of key battery minerals.