A proposal by Baffinland Iron Mines to ship iron ore through Milne Inlet 10 months of the year is drawing surprise and anger in Nunavut.

“People are shocked,” Pond Inlet hunter Caleb Sanguya told the CBC in Inuktitut. “I know the majority will reject the proposal.”

Ryan Barry, the executive director of the Nunavut Impact Review Board, says he was taken aback.

“Our boards were not expecting it when they did the last assessment with the early revenue phase, so I would fully understand if there is public concern about this proposal, or the way it is being proposed or treated."

Baffinland, which began operations at its Mary River site on north Baffin Island this summer, had originally planned to move iron ore using a railway to Steensby Inlet on the island’s south coast, then by ship through the Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait.

Baffinland Milne Inlet shipping route

Winter shipping would mean breaking the ice of Eclipse Sound and Baffin Bay 10 months of the year. (Baffinland Iron Mines)

Days after receiving approval for the controversial project, the company changed its tune, opting for a “phased” approach that would see smaller amounts of ore being moved by road northeast to Milne Inlet for shipment to Europe through the summer months only.

In its new proposal, the company says it wants to take advantage of its existing infrastructure, by tripling the amount of ore currently being shipped through Milne Inlet, from 4.2 million tonnes to about 12 million tonnes per year.

That would mean ships moving through the area from June until March, breaking up the sea ice to keep waters open in Eclipse Sound near Pond Inlet and into Baffin Bay. 

It would also mean more traffic on the current tote road from the mine site to the port, and a new dock.

Baffinland opted for the phased approach when it was unable to find the $5 billion in capital required for its approved project.

The company hopes to being shipping ore in the winter months starting in 2017.

But the Nunavut Impact Review Board says it will take the time it needs to assess the new proposal.