Baffinland must reduce ore dust blowing onto ice near Milne Inlet: report

In its latest report on the Mary River mine, the Nunavut Impact Review Board says Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation has improved the amount of dust emitted from the site's crusher facility, but needs to better manage the dispersion of the dust.

Nunavut Impact Review Board says Pond Inlet has been raising concerns for 2 years

Iron ore dust on snow around Milne Inlet. (Nunavut Impact Review Board)

The organization that conducts impact assessments on projects in Nunavut wants Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation to find a way to make sure dust from its iron ore stockpiles doesn't end up settling on nearby sea ice. 

Last week, the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) released its report on its winter visit to Baffinland's Mary River mine on north Baffin Island in Nunavut. The visit — which happens twice a year — is a chance to make sure the company is doing all it can to reduce the impact its production has on the environment and people. 

The mine's iron ore is mostly sold to buyers in Europe who produce steel. Once the ore has been crushed, workers in trucks drive it approximately 100 kilometres to Milne Inlet to what's called "stockpiles." Mounds of ore wait there until ships come to deliver it to Europe between July and October.

According to the review board's report, dust from the iron ore becomes a problem during the transportation and stockpiling processes. 

Baffinland's Mary River mine is about 100 kilometres from Milne Inlet on north Baffin Island. (CBC)

"Vehicular traffic ... resulted in the generation of dust plumes and widespread discolouration of the snowbanks along the road," the report reads. "At the time of the site visit, there was evidence of dust deposition and accumulation on sea ice around Milne Inlet and this was likely influenced by blowing ore dust during ore stockpiling."

This is something the review board along with people in Pond Inlet, Nunavut — the nearest community — have been mentioning for at least two years, the report says. It says Baffinland "has not taken any specific-site actions to reduce or prevent blowing ore dust from the ore stockpile area into the Milne Inlet environment."

Baffinland said they couldn't provide a response to CBC's questions by story deadline Friday.

NIRB says amount of dust has improved

Review board staff took a tour of many facilities at the Mary River mine, including near the crusher, the reports says. 

The report says there has been a decrease in what the review board calls "emission" of dust, meaning there is less dust in general, near the crusher, thanks to "dust control technology."

The review board says it still wants to hear how Baffinland plans to better adapt its technology so there is even less ore and fewer dust plumes along the road to Milne Inlet and in the stockpiles.   

The report says review board staff expected an update from Baffinland during their summer visit, which happened earlier this month. That update is expected to be publicly released near the end of September.