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The union representing about 1 000 employees at the Mary River mine on Baffin Island, Nunavut, has expressed its “deep disappointment” with the federal government’s rejection of an expansion proposal for the mine.

The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 739, business manager Mike Gallagher says that by rejection the expansion, Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal fails to recognise the significant economic consequences of his decision to many Canadian families.

“Following the decision by Minister Vandal, we’re left questioning where Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s comments about the global economy being at a turning point applies.

“Currently, it does not look like it applies to Baffinland Iron Mines, where the future of more than 1 000 unionized jobs is now uncertain, let alone the 2 600-plus workers who rely on Baffinland Iron Mines for work,” says Gallagher.

Local 739 is referring to Freeland’s comments in the 2022 Fall Economic Statement, where the federal government highlighted its plan to continue its sound stewardship of the economy and to be there for Canadians; to help families cope with increasing costs and delivering targeted support to the Canadians who need it the most.

Gallagher questions how the federal government says it supporting resource development and good paying jobs, but rejects the expansion of an already existing mine that has significant Inuit participation and employs workers from across Canada.

“Losing well-paid skilled jobs when the cost of living has skyrocketed right across the country makes this news even harder to accept.”

Baffinland Iron Mines CEO Brian Penney has previously expressed his company’s disappointment with Vandal’s rejection of the Phase 2 expansion of the Mary River mine.

Vandal has accepted the recommendation of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) that the Phase 2 proposal, in its current form, should not proceed, citing potentially significant adverse impacts on vegetation and freshwater, as well as adverse eco-systemic impacts on marine mammals and fish, caribou and other terrestrial wildlife.

Vandal encouraged Baffinland to work with its partners in establishing a positive path forward. “This can be done by Baffinland applying for a new project to adequately consider any new proposed commitments in public setting, providing certainty for all partners,” the Minister said.

The Mary River mine, which is jointly owned by ArcelorMittal and The Energy and Minerals Group, is currently permitted to extract and ship up to six-million tonnes of iron-ore a year.

To ensure the economic viability of the mine, Baffinland is seeking approval to expand its operations to 12-million tonnes a year. The proposed Phase 2 expansion involves building a railway from the Mary River mine site to Milne port, adding a second ore dock and increasing the amount of ore delivered to its customers each year.