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Iron Ore mining in Baffin island, Nunavut territory, Canada

In Baffin island, the Inuit council agree to iron ore extraction (about 6 million tons per year) against the recommendations of the Nunavut Impact Review Board. Meanwhile, building of a railway is in dispute.


Nunavut is the largest in area and the second-least populous of Canada's provinces and territories. It is becoming a "commodity extraction frontier", with uranium and iron ore resources. One of the world's most remote, sparsely settled regions, it has a population of 36,000, mostly Inuit, spread over an area of just over 1,750,000 km2.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Iron Ore mining in Baffin island, Nunavut territory, Canada
State or province:Nunavut
Location of conflict:Baffin island
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project details

"Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation (Baffinland)’s Mary River mine site on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, is one of the most northern mines in the world. Amongst the richest iron ore deposits ever discovered, the Mary River Property consists of nine-plus high-grade iron ore deposits that can be mined, crushed, and screened into marketable products" [1]

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Level of Investment:4,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:8 000
Start of the conflict:2012
Relevant government actors:NIRB, Nunavut Impact Review Board
Nunavut goverment
Government of Canada
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:QIA, Qikiqtani Inuit Association
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Inuit hunters
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Mine tailing spills, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsMelting of ice roads. Affecting caribou and other animal life.
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsInuit authorities are being coopted though royalty payments and promises of jobs
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The social and environmental effects that large scale iron mining will have are not yet fully known, and the construction of a railway to the harbour (as an alternative to heavy truck traffic) is being debated. Local Inuit opposition has been weak.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[5] Scobie, W. & Rodgers, K. (2013). Contestations of resource extraction projects via digital media in two Nunavut communities. Études/Inuit/Studies, 37(2), 83–101. (explains resistance to uranium mining in Baker Lake and to iron ore mining in Baffin Island)
[click to view]

Steering Our Own Ship?” An Assessment of Self-Determination and Self-Governance for Community Development in Nunavut by Roger Ritsema, Jackie Dawson, Miriam Jorgensen, and Brenda Macdougall. The Northern Review, 41 (2015): 157–180
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Mary River project, description by the company Baffinland Iron Mines Corp which was created in 1986
[click to view]

[2]Baffinland pitches Mary River-Milne Inlet railway for Nunavut iron mine. Change of plan catches Qikiqtani Inuit Association by surprise. THOMAS ROHNER. Nunatsiaq News. 19 Febr. 2016
[click to view]

[3[ Agreement between QIA Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Baffinland Iron Ores Corp, Oct 2018
[click to view]

[4] Inuit org helps Baffinland overturn Nunavut review board’s advice by Jim Bell. 2 Oct. 2018. Nunatsiaq news.
[click to view]

Globe and Mail, 11 Jan 2013, by Pav Jordan. Baffinland Iron Mines sharply scales back Mary River project.
[click to view]

[6] Mining company secretly proposes to increase industrial shipping in Arctic marine conservation area. The Narwhal, 30 Oct. 2019, by Jimmy Thomson.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

19 NOVEMBER 2019. Iron ore mining not for the faint of heart—it’s a tough business. “The Mary River iron ore mine appears to be at an unfortunate and dangerous impasse at the moment”. Nunatsiaq News. By Gary Vivian. President, N.W.T. and Nunavut Chamber of Mines
[click to view]

Other documents

Source:_Beth Brown, Nunatsiaq News, 9 Oct 2018
[click to view]

Baffinland's camp at Milne Inlet.
[click to view]

Other comments:In 2018, partly in response to urgent pleas from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, the federal government has rejected advice from the Nunavut Impact Review and ordered that Baffinland be allowed to increase ore production at the Mary River iron mine from 4.2 million metric tonnes a year to six million metric tonnes a year for 2018 and 2019. Nunatsiaq News, 2 Oct 2018.[4].
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Last update13/02/2020
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