The federal government has given Baffinland’s Mary River Project the green light to move ahead with its iron ore mine on north Baffin Island.

Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation proposed the Mary River project, which would be a massive open-pit mine about 160 kilometres south of Pond Inlet.

A press release from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada says the approval is based on the recommendation of the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

The board’s executive director, Ryan Barry, says it’s a big day for the territory.

"We do feel it's certainly a milestone for our organization, as this is a very big and important file for Nunavut," he said.

The review board will issue a formal project certificate within about 30 days, which will establish the basis for its future monitoring of the project.

Baffinland will also begin the licensing process with the Nunavut Water Board and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

In addition, the company will work to complete its Inuit Impacts and Benefits Agreement with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

A spokesperson for Baffinland says it's difficult to predict when construction of the mine will get underway.

Residents of Nunavut have been divided over the project. Some people welcome the potential wealth they could gain from the mine, while others are wary about its potential impacts.

The project involves the construction of a road, a railway and a deep-water port and mine site infrastructure.

The 17,000-hectare mine will cost about $4 billion to build.