Baffinland Iron Ore ships first load from its Canada’s Nunavut mine

Baffinland Iron Ore ships first load from its Canada’s Nunavut mine

The Federal Tiber leaves Milne Port. (Image courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation)

Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation said the first load of ore from its Nunavut-based Mary River mine, in the Canadian Arctic, is now on its way to Germany.

Over 50,000 tonnes of ore left the Milne Inlet port on Saturday, said the company. Once the shipment gets to Europe, it will be made into steel.

The miner’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Tom Paddon, said in a statement the ore delivery marked a “significant” moment for Nunavut, as the world’s most northerly open pit mine, which began operations in the fall last year, is now fully functional.

The company has grabbed some headlines lately, after announcing plans to extend its iron ore shipping season through the Baffin Bay to 10 months per year from about four. Initially, such plan was confronted by the Nunavut Planning Commission, which concluded the scheme was too disruptive for wildlife and did not conform to the North Baffin Land Use Plan currently in place.

However, the company was granted a land use plan exemption last month, which allowed Baffinland Iron Mines to bypass the planning commission and take its proposal straight to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, where it will undergo an environmental assessment.

Almost year-round

If successful, the company will be able to increase iron ore shipments from ice-free months only — roughly June to October — to the proposed 10-month period, stretching between June and March each year, including the November to March period, when ice forms on Eclipse Sound.

The miner would be then sending 150 loads a year, floating fuel storage, using icebreakers for a few months a year, and significantly increasing haul truck traffic along the tote road between Milne Inlet and Mary River, Nunatsiaq Online reported.

The ambitious $4-billion rail and port project, located in the Qikiqtani Region of Nunavut, almost 500 kilometres inside the Arctic circle, was expected to ship 18 million tonnes of iron ore annually. In 2012, however, the company — owned 50 % by ArcelorMittal and 50% by Nunavut Iron Ore (NIO)— decided to scale-down the operation, as the mining downturn and lower iron ore prices made the full project difficult to finance.

The Mary River operation, one of the world's richest and largest iron ore deposits, contains approximately 365 million tonnes of high-grade ore that can be shipped directly without requiring processing that produce tailings.

The life of the mine is expected to be more than 20 years for the first deposit.