A proposed railway and many more cargo ships are the major concerns Baffinland Iron Mines’ CEO Brian Penney is hearing about in relation to the miner’s phase two expansion proposal, which would increase shipping to 12 million tonnes per year.
Penney said there’s misconceptions that the railway would reduce jobs for Inuit. He said there are only three or four existing Inuit truck drivers who go back and forth on the tote road from the mine to the port. However, Inuit represent close to 40 per cent of truck drivers at the mine site and the number of trucks at Mary River will rise dramatically if phase two proceeds.
“Anyone that drives a truck is going to be trained on driving trains,” the CEO said. “Inuit employment is only going to grow at Baffinland under all scenarios… we’re going to continue to build skills within the communities, to build skills that will make the workforce of the future for Baffinland. And hopefully someday Baffinland will be run by Inuit, totally.”
The company’s phase two expansion proposal would see a 110-km rail line stretching north from Mary River to Milne Inlet. The trains would pull up to 176 rail cars carrying iron ore. Baffinland is also seeking to retain approvals for a second 150-km rail line that would run south to Steensby Inlet. The latter route would represent a further expansion over the next several years.
In regards to shipping, Penney noted that Baffinland transported a record 5.1 million tonnes of iron ore last year. That entailed seventy-one voyages by cargo ships. He insisted that there were no significant repercussions for marine life, but Penney acknowledged that having shipping more than double through phase two brings uncertainties.
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