Baffinland drops winter sealift proposal, cites 'community concerns'

The decision, the company says, 'was made in response to recent community concerns over the timing of the proposed sealift.'

Concerns raised by the community 'warrant standing down,' company says

Baffinland had proposed using the MV Nunavik to transport trucks and trailers to its Mary River mine site ahead of open water season.

Baffinland Iron Mines has dropped its proposal to send an icebreaking cargo vessel through Eclipse Sound in March, saying community concerns now warrant "standing down." 

The company sought approval from the Nunavut Impact Review Board earlier this month to send the MV Nunavik to Milne Inlet. It said it needed to transport extra trucks and trailers to the mine in spring in order to meet its shipping targets this summer.

That would have meant breaking ice in Eclipse Sound, an idea rejected by the Nunavut Planning Commission a few years ago. The commission said it would be too disruptive to wildlife and community transportation routes.

The decision to withdraw the project "was made in response to recent community concerns over the timing of the proposed sealift," Baffinland said in a Feb. 16 letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board. 

"Baffinland had proceeded with the proposal application based on previous indications that there was community support for the sealift," the letter said.

"However, recent concerns raised by the community over breaking ice in March are now considered significant and warrant standing down."

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

Trucks by plane?

In its original proposal, Baffinland said it could also move equipment to the site using a large cargo plane, but that would require building a landing strip on the ice. 

"The full cost and viability of developing an ice landing strip strong enough to support the weight of a large cargo plane is being investigated but is not expected to be practical at this point," reads the company's Jan. 26 proposal.

Another alternative is to wait for open water to bring in the trucks, but that would only contribute to production for two months before the open water shipping season wrapped up in October.

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