Baffinland puts off iron mine's port and railway

Baffinland says it has put off the construction of a port at Steensby Inlet, and the railway connecting the mine to the port, blaming tight financial markets.

Plans to use Milne Inlet to ship ore seasonally

Baffinland Iron Mines is now proposing a phased approach to its plans for the Mary River mine, saying the project has become difficult to finance in the current global market.

The company sent a letter to Nunavut regulators Thursday outlining its revised plans. They include putting off the construction of the port at Steensby Inlet, and the railway connecting the mine to the port.

A dump truck at Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.'s Mary River project, located 160 kilometres south of Pond Inlet, Nunavut, on northern Baffin Island.

Instead, Baffinland is proposing the company use the existing port at Milne Inlet and a tote road to the mine site in its initial phase.

The ore will then be shipped from Milne Inlet, only during the open water season.

Plans for year-round shipping using icebreakers have been put off along with the port at Steensby Inlet.

The company expects to move about 3.5 million tonnes of ore per year during the initial phase. The original plan was to move about 18 million tonnes per year through Steensby Inlet and Foxe Basin.

Baffinland blames tight global financial markets for the change of plans and it says the phased approach will generate revenue sooner, and give time to prepare for an expansion of the project.

The company said it still plans to develop the railway and port at a later date.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board issued a project certificate for the Mary River project in late December after a four-year environmental review.

Baffinland is now asking the board to amend the certificate to allow the new plan.

Ryan Barry, the board's executive director, said the board can't just make changes to a project certificate.

"It's a substantial process," he said. "Like all of our processes, it would require the proponent to give us adequate information about all the potential environmental effects. It would be subject to public review and potentially to further hearings as well."

Barry said the board will make a recommendation to the federal government. The Northern Development minister will then decide whether to reopen the project certificate.