Copyright © 2019 Senator Dennis Patterson.

Statement – Baffinland Iron Mine

December 6, 2012

Honourable Senators: earlier this week, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has given Baffinland’s Mary River  iron ore Project the green light to move ahead with its iron ore mine on north Baffin Island.

The iron ore deposit, estimated to be approx. 400 million tonnes, is located about 900 kilometres north of Iqaluit on the northern tip of Baffin Island. The estimated capital cost of the project is in excess of $4 billion with a construction workforce of approximately 3, 500. The mine is expected to have a mine life of over twenty years and an operating workforce of over 700.

This is a spectacular project. It will feature a      km railroad built on permafrost with 24 bridges and two tunnels; 3 64 car trains making two round trips per day; and the building of7 new Arctic Class  icebreaking ore 190,000 tonne capacity ore carriers.

Do not underestimate the impact which this project will have on our Canadian economy and GDP. Almost all of the equipment, supplies, mine infrastructure and will need to be imported from southern Canada and some foreign suppliers. Shipping of most supplies, fuel, and equipment will most likely originate from ports in Eastern Canada..

Ottawa will receive significant taxation and royalty revenue from this project.

Most important, due to the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement,  which was signed by our Conservative Government in 1993, the Inuit of Nunavut and the Baffin Region have had a voice in the project’s socio – economic and environmental review and approval, and will get a share of revenues and business opportunities from the project in the form of taxes, royalties, and an Impact Benefit Agreement.

The formula for a stable investment climate in Nunavut is very simple: Inuit have a say in project reviews and approvals, and they are guaranteed a significant 5% royalty share if a project is approved.

The sign-off by Minister Duncan represents the next step forward. Now Baffinland will work on land lease negotiations and an impact and benefits agreement with the QIA – the regional Inuit Association  and will start discussions with the Nunavut Water Board towards a water license. If all goes well, and the Company makes a decision to commence construction, activity could be underway during 2013 with production starting in 2017.

Honourable Senators, this project is a remarkable achievement and testimonial to the effectiveness of the regulatory process in Nunavut. I want to congratulate the Nunavut Impact Review Board, established under the Nunavut Land Claim, for its thorough, professional and timely approach to reviewing and reporting on this massive project.


I want to congratulate the Baffinland team, Federal and Territorial officials and representatives from the QIA and affected Nunavut communities who made the review process work, culminating in a 356 page report, outlining the positive recommendation by NIRB  to the AANDCMinister, which  included 184 terms and conditions to regulate the project. The vast majority of these recommendations are aimed at minimizing the environmental impacts associated with such a project to meet community concerns about impacts on wildlife and the sensitive Arctic ecosystem.

I also want to congratulate Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister John Duncan, and officials from affected departments, including Can Nor for their timely analysis of the NIRB decision, allowing Minister Duncan to finally endorse the next steps for a project he has described as a  “game changer” for Nunavut. The federal government’s intense internal review of the board’s recommendations took only 79 days.

I hope that the Baffinland example provides lessons for what regulatory reform needs to achieve in the Northwest Territories where the current regimes are discouraging investment in that territory’s rich mineral and oil and gas potential.

The Mary River project will fundamentally change the economy of many North Baffin Island communities and Nunavut and will contribute to GDP growth in Canada.

Best wishes for success to Baffinland and the people, government and Inuit organizations of Nunavut who have worked so hard on this project.