North

Baffinland pitches winter sealift by icebreaking cargo ship

Baffinland Iron Mines says it needs a winter sealift this year in order to increase the production rate at its Mary River mine, and that would require breaking ice near Pond Inlet.

Proposes installing ice bridge system over ship's wake near Pond Inlet

Baffinland proposes placing an pontoon ice bridge system over the broken sea ice track left behind by the icebreaking vessel, like this one deployed near the Voisey's Bay mine in Labrador. (Baffinland)

Baffinland Iron Mines says it needs a winter sealift this year in order to increase the production rate at its Mary River mine, and that would require breaking ice near Pond Inlet.

The company's proposal a few years ago to ship ore 10 months a year through Eclipse Sound using icebreakers was rejected by the Nunavut Planning Commission, who deemed it too disruptive to wildlife and community transportation routes.

This proposal for a winter sealift has been OK'd by the NPC and referred on to the Nunavut Impact Review Board for screening.

The company is proposing sending the MV Nunavik, an icebreaking cargo vessel, through Eclipse Sound to Milne Inlet in late March, in order to transport extra trucks and trailers to the mine. It says it needs to get the trucks to the mine in spring in order to meet its shipping targets this summer.

The line in red shows the proposed winter icebreaking route. (Baffinland/Nunavut Planning Commission)

In its submission to the Nunavut Planning Commission, it says it considered transporting the trucks by air, but that it would have to build an ice landing strip to accommodate the large cargo plane and the cost "is not expected to be practical at this point."

Waiting for the summer sealift would mean the production rate could only be ramped up for two months before shipping season ended.

The MV Nunavik would drop off the trucks and other cargo at Mary River while transporting a load of nickel ore to Europe from the Raglan mine in Northern Quebec.

The MV Nunavik at Deception Bay, Que., in winter 2014. In Baffinland's winter sealift proposal, the icebreaking cargo ship would drop off trucks and other cargo at the Mary River mine in late March while transporting a load of nickel ore to Europe from the Raglan mine in Northern Quebec. (Fednav Ltd.)

Seal pupping season

The company says it had a series of meetings in Pond Inlet in December to hear community concerns. Two of the major concerns for Pond Inlet residents are the possible effect of the icebreaking on seals — March is when seal pups are born in dens on the sea ice — and its effect on traditional hunting and travelling routes over sea ice.

The company proposes monitoring the sealift's effect on seals, and installing an ice bridge system over the broken ice near Pond Inlet. It would also install route markers and signage in English and Inuktitut "to identify the path left by the vessel so areas of thin ice are highlighted to local travellers."

It also says the ship could possibly deliver some cargo to Pond Inlet. 

Another consultation workshop on monitoring and mitigation plans is scheduled to be held in Pond Inlet on Friday.

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