Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation won’t conduct any icebreaking activities this summer out of concern for the narwhal population, the company announced Tuesday.
The mining company will wait for ice concentrations of 3/10ths or less — essentially water with very little drift ice — to make vessel transit possible between the entrance of Eclipse Sound and Milne Port. This is expected to cause a two-week delay in Baffinland’s shipping season.
“This decision is based on direct response to Inuit input and the recognition of an important community-based project occurring which overlaps with the planned start of the Baffinland shipping season,” said Brian Penney, President and CEO of Baffinland. “Baffinland understands the importance of narwhal, and also the importance of the construction of the small craft harbour in Pond Inlet continuing this year. Without knowing what mitigation measures might be placed on the small craft harbour construction activity, our decision to halt icebreaking for the spring is based on the precautionary principle that is the foundation of our adaptive management plan.”
The company noted that the icebreaker MV Botnica will still be present throughout the shipping season, and will “continue to be available for escorts as a precaution.”
Baffinland will consider the same approach in the fall when the ice is returning, even though these decisions present financial risk to the company, according to Penney.
“Baffinland appreciates the time and effort dedicated by community members to provide their input. Through this participation, Baffinland has developed a strong response to its 2020 narwhal monitoring program findings for implementation during 2021 shipping operations, demonstrating a sincere and flexible commitment towards operating in a protective, precautionary, and adaptive manner,” he said.
The Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization publicly called for Baffinland to halt its icebreaking activities in June because of risks to marine life.