Baffinland Iron Mines will once again be sending a variety of ships, including massive ore carriers, to and from Milne Inlet over the summer and the total number of voyages could surpass 100.
The vessels will pass by Pond Inlet and through Eclipse Sound as they transport an estimated five to six million tonnes of iron ore from the Mary River Mine over the next few months.
Pond Inlet Mayor Joshua Arreak said the community is keeping a close eye on any possible effects that the shipping traffic might have on the environment, wildlife and local people.
“Scientifically they say no, there is no significant impact but for hunters, yes, they say there’s an impact. All we can do is go by the numbers,” Arreak said. “Let’s see what happens this year. We’ll keep monitoring ourselves.
“There are always animals everywhere. That’s our concern. They’re all over the place,” the mayor said, but he added that the mammals retreat when the big ships approach. “They flee from the noise from icebreaking… any animal would move away from any disturbance.”
Eric Ootoovak, chair of the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization (MHTO), couldn’t be reached for comment.
Arreak credited Baffinland for hiring shipping monitors, who will work in shifts, which he said is helpful.
The mining company’s marine shipping report, recently filed with the Nunavut Impact Review Board, states: “(The monitors) will act as the primary liaison between the community of Pond Inlet, the MHTO, and Baffinland to discuss and/or resolve potential issues related to Baffinland shipping operations.”
Baffinland listed several actions it would take to limit impacts from the ships including reducing vessel speed to nine knots, limiting vessel idling to minimize noise output and preventing ships from getting within 300 metres of a walrus or polar bear observed on ice.
In recognition of the MHTO’s expressed concerns over the Ragged Island area, Baffinland stated that is has not found any alternative locations that “support safe operations in the northern shipping corridor.” However, the company has put a limit of three vessels anchoring or drifting at Ragged Island at any time.
The company has also established a “no-go zones” near Saviit – along shoreline of Bruce Head – because it has been identified as an important hunting area.
“Baffinland will continue to work with the MHTO and residents of Pond Inlet to ensure the consideration and potential integration of Inuit views and perspectives to inform decision-making concerning shipping operations wherever feasible,” the company stated in its report.
Because there are restrictions on the use of firearms within a certain range of the Baffinland project area, the company reiterated that the impact on hunters has resulted in a minimum of $1.25 million being paid quarterly – or $5 million annually – as compensation in the form of resource royalties. The company also puts money into the Wildlife Compensation Fund administered by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and it has provided $370,000 to Pond Inlet over the past two years as compensation due to the number of ore carriers surpassing a specified threshold in the area.
Baffinland added that it will provide food, water, shelter and fuel to hunters who visit its project site.
Despite all the assurances and payments, Arreak wouldn’t offer any commitment to support Baffinland’s phase two expansion proposal, which, if approved, would result in a large hike in shipping in the future.
“I don’t know. It’s still up in the air,” the mayor said. “We’re always concerned on our environment, mammals and land animals, too. We want minimal disturbance.”
Baffinland shipping projections for 2020
Between 70-75 voyages to and from Milne Port
Between 1-15 voyages in each of the summer and fall shoulder seasons
Sealift cargo vessels
Source: Baffinland Iron Mines