The Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation plans to develop an open pit iron mine on Canada's Baffin Island at a place called Mary River.
Baffinland describes the deposits at Mary River as large and high grade (World Class):
Here's a site plan, estimated reserves are described in the lower left hand corner:
The ore doesn't need much processing - only crushing - before shipment.
Baffinland would like to take care of the preparatory work by September 2009 and begin construction in July 2010. The first commercial ore shipments should leave in September 2014. The mine should produce 18 million tons of ore a year for 20 years, or more. Total construction costs are estimated to be about C$4.1 billion.
The ore will be mined, crushed, and taken by rail to a port at Steensby Inlet, about 145 km away It will take six trains a day for 300 days a year to move the ore to the port. This will be the most northerly railway in the world when it's done. Building through permafrost during global warming will be a challenge. The project is being designed by Canarail. Carolyn Fitzpatrick, the project engineer, goes into the details: Heavy haul in the High North (much of this post draws on her article).
This port itself will be able to handle large ice-reinforced ore carriers year-round.
Ice reinforced bulk carriers will be required to move the ore to market.
The ore will be taken to Europe where five steel producers have already signed letters of intent to take 40% of the production.
Eventually the mine will have 400-500 people working at any given time. From the corporate web site:
The Mary River project will be operated with fly-in, fly-out camps. Employees, contractors, and other project personnel will be transported to the project site using regularly scheduled chartered aircraft. The regular work rotation will be based on 12-hour workdays and a 2-week on, 2-weeks off, schedule. Personnel will be transported to Mary River from Baffinland-sponsored hiring centres or pick-up locations of Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Arctic Bay, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Iqaluit or Ottawa.
Accommodation complexes will be established at both the Steensby port site and the Mary River mine site. Personnel based at the port site will be transferred from the Mary River airstrip to Steensby by passenger train. It is currently estimated that there may be in the order of 400-500 people on-site at the Mary River project during normal operations.
This story deals with company job outreach to local Inuit: Inuit workers wanted in Mary River mine constuction: Baffinland.
News stories suggest ambivalence among local Inuit. In this story from 2006 there is a lot of excitement about jobs for generations to come: Billion-dollar mine could provide generations of hope for job-starved Nunavut. In this story from this past April, Inuit are concerned about the impact of shipping on subsistence walrus harvests: Baffin Island residents resist proposed iron mine plans.
Residents in Igloolik, Nunavut, and some Baffin Island communities oppose plans for an iron mine in the area because its proposed marine shipping route cuts through Foxe Basin, where generations of Inuit have hunted for walrus.
Igloolik resident Jaypetee Palluq, who served on an environmental board collecting Inuit traditional knowledge for Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.'s proposed Mary River mine site, told CBC News on Friday that he would oppose the company's current plans to the very end.
Speaking in Inuktitut, Palluq acknowledged that communities around the Mary River site need jobs and money, but said those are less important than hunting walrus on existing routes on sea ice.
Palluq called on the company to find an alternate shipping route to the mine, regardless of the cost. He added that residents in Arctic Bay and Clyde River have also told him the project should not proceed as it is right now.
The original plan called for the shipment of 250,000 tons of ore to Europe this year in a bulk sample program; that's been revised down to 120,000 to 150,000 due to:
...the advent of an earlier than anticipated spring melt combined with severe rainfall in the later part of June resulting in a need for extensive construction and maintenance work along the full length of the 100-kilometre tote road to the shipping site at Milne Inlet. Haulage of the bulk sample on this road has been interrupted for approximately six weeks. Drier weather recently has helped expedite work on the road and ore haulage is expected to resume by July 31, 2008....
...Discussions with Baffinland's potential customers indicate that the revised bulk sample size will be sufficient to meet the original program objectives that being the final metallurgical test of the Mary River iron ore. The test results will be part of a "blast furnace technical report" that will be shared with potential customers and will form the basis for the negotiation of long-term sales and purchase agreements. (Baffinland Revised Bulk Sample Program Targets).
The stock price has been down recently:
Baffinlands Iron Mines Corp on the Toronto Exchange. Yahoo Finance.
Illustrations (except for stock prices) are from the 2006 Baffinland corporate PowerPoint presentation at a Nunavut Mining Symposium, Mary River Iron Ore Deposits Baffin Island Nunavut and a February 2008 presentation: Mary River – A World Class Direct-Shipping Iron Ore Project. Many of the details are from the Carolyn Fitzpatrick article.
Revised July 30, 2008: added references to three stories about the mine and its relationship with local Inuit.