Citing the impacts of Covid-19 and the virus’s effects on financial markets, Baffinland Iron Mines asked the federal government for a $125-million, low-interest loan on March 31, 2020.
“Should government financial aid not be available the (Mary River) project, its employees, and both current and future benefits will be put at imminent risk,” states the letter, which was made public by the Nuluujaat Land Guardians on Wednesday following an access to information request through the Government of Canada.
The consequences of a mine shutdown, according to Baffinland at the time, would have been that 2,000 Canadians – including 400 Inuit – would have lost their jobs, “immediately further straining Canada’s employment insurance system.” More than $4 billion in tax and royalty payments – $2 billion to Inuit organizations, $1.7 billion to the federal government $700 million to the Government of Nunavut – would not be made. More than $5 billion in capital spending to fully develop the Mary River Mine between Milne Inlet and Steensby Inlet would vanish.
The company also advised that delays of public hearings and technical meetings that are part of the regulatory process for the proposed expansion of the mine had impacted its ability to acquire funding via other sources. Baffinland requested that the federal government ensure that the environmental review process conclude by late July 2020, in time for the next shipping season.
The Nuluujaat Land Guardians – a group formed by concerned residents of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay – obtained and released the letter “to demonstrate that the official processes Inuit are asked to trust should be viewed with great care.”
“Baffinland is attempting to change the rules, outside the NIRB process and the Nunavut Agreement, operating behind the backs of Inuit and Inuit organizations. Inuit are told to follow the rules and the work with the processes, while southern companies appear free to bend the rules and seek advantage when the process does not suit them,” states a Wednesday news release from the Guardians. “Nuluujaat Land Guardians request a meeting with the minister of Northern Affairs to hear him voice his support for the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the processes established, and confirm his refusal to enter into back-room dealings.”
Heather Smiles, Baffinland’s manager of stakeholder relations stated that, like most other large companies, Baffinland corresponds and interacts with the federal goverment as part of its “normal course operations.”
“This is simply a responsible thing for a large company to do,” she said. “The content of our letter only serves to emphasize what we have been saying publicly for months; namely, that our operation faces significant uncertainty without phase two (expansion). This uncertainty was amplified with the timing of the letter, which was written at the onset of Covid-19.”
An internal letter from Natural Resources Canada, signed by associate deputy minister Shawn Tupper, is also included in the information package provided by the Nuluujaat Land Guardians. The correspondence acknowledges that the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) was in discussions with Baffinland at the time on “mine operation issues.” Related meetings between the QIA, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated and the federal and territorial governments were to follow, to determine whether viable alternatives existed to keep the delayed hearings moving forward.
The letter makes no recommendations in regards to the loan Baffinland sought.