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Research Document - 2011/086

Science Technical Review of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Baffinland’s Mary River Project

By R.E.A. Stewart, V. Lesage, J.W. Lawson, H. Cleator, and K.A. Martin


Baffinland’s Mary River Project is a proposed iron ore mining operation located in the Canadian Arctic on northern Baffin Island, Nunavut. The Project includes port developments proposed in Steensby and Milne inlets, an all weather road from the Milne Inlet Port to the mine, a year-round railroad line from the Steensby Port to the mine and a year-round shipping route through Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait. Since 2005, Baffinland has conducted baseline studies which form the basis of their draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Mary River Project. These studies cover the terrestrial, freshwater, atmospheric and marine environments, as well as socio‐economic conditions and land use. Baffinland submitted the draft EIS for development of the Mary River Project to the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) for detailed environmental and socio-economic review. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for conducting a technical review of the draft EIS. To that end, Ecosystems Management sector within Central and Arctic Region requested advice from the Science sector to assist them with reviewing the Baffinland draft EIS, especially the potential impacts of ice-breaking/shipping activities on marine mammals.

DFO Science staff that reviewed the draft EIS identified a number of unresolved issues in the report. These concerns relate to the alternative assessment of port locations, extent of the local study area, shipping routes, transboundary issues, baseline studies, valued ecosystem components, environmental impacts/effects assessment, noise, and ballast water. The reviewers concluded that there are several shortcomings in data collection, analysis and interpretation in the draft EIS. As a result, the draft EIS does not contain sufficient information to support the Proponent’s conclusions about Project effects on the marine environment, including marine mammals.

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