By Tyler Irving
Posted April 2011
The hematite formations near the Mary River in Nunavut contain an estimated 450 million tonnes of iron ore.
A recent takeover of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. by two foreign investors means that the world’s northernmost iron mine is closer to reality than it has ever been.
In the early 1960s, nine deposits of high-grade iron ore were discovered by the Mary River on Baffin Island, 1,000 kilometres north of Iqaluit. Development was delayed for decades due to high capital cost: not only would the open-pit mine require digging through permafrost in bitterly cold temperatures and total darkness for three months of the year, but the current proposal includes a 150 kilometre railway to transport the ore to the coast. However, world iron prices have risen substantially in recent years, and last fall a bidding war for control of Baffinland broke out between ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel-maker, and Nunavut Iron Ore Acquisition Inc., a U.S.-based company backed by a large investment fund. In January, the two came to an agreement to split ownership of Baffinland 70-30, respectively. By the end of February, the partnership held over 90 per cent of Baffinland.
The hope among the project’s proponents is that the deep pockets of the foreign investors will enable development to proceed more quickly. A draft environmental assessment for the project has already been submitted to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, and current projections expect the mine to be underway within two to three years.
Photo Credit: Baffinland Iron Mines corp.
Write to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org