Nunavut miner issues layoff notices to more than 1,100 employees

But Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.says it will rescind the notices, if it gets permission to mining at the rate of 6 million tonnes per year.

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Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. has sent layoff notices to more than 1,100 of its employees. (Nunatsiaq News file photo)

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. has sent layoff notices to more than 1,100 of its employees.

The company sent the notices July 31, said spokesperson Peter Akman. The first round of layoffs is scheduled to happen Sept. 25, and the second on Oct. 11.

“The company has had to take this step out of an abundance of caution,” Akman wrote in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

Baffinland operates an iron mine on north Baffin Island in Nunavut, where it employs about 350 Inuit.

The company warned it would have to lay off employees if it didn’t get permission to ship 6 million tonnes of ore this year out of Milne Inlet.

Baffinland is currently working with a permit that allows it to ship 4.2 million tonnes of iron ore per year, since a temporary permit that allowed it to ship 6 million expired Dec. 31.

In May, Baffinland asked federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal to sign an emergency order that would allow the company to skip the review process, citing the potential layoffs if its shipping limit wasn’t increased.

Asked why Baffinland didn’t apply for the permit extension earlier so the Nunavut Impact Review Board would have time to consider the application before making a recommendation to Vandal, Akman cited a number of factors, including the status of a larger application that would allow Baffinland to double the mine’s output. The company had been expecting an answer on the proposed expansion before the temporary permit expired.

Vandal denied the request for an emergency order, but has instructed the review board to treat Baffinland’s application as a priority due to the jobs at stake.

“The regulatory process is moving slowly,” Akman wrote. “As a result, Baffinland must continue to take preparatory steps to rescale its operation.”

There is still a chance the company could take back the layoff notices.

“If we receive approval to continue mining at [six million tonnes] this year as we are hoping, we will rescind the termination notices,” Akman said.

The news came as a blow to Nunavut workers at the mine.

Adamee Atsiqtaq, an apprentice electrician who lives in Clyde River told Nunatsiaq News that when he received a layoff notice his first thought was, “How am I going to feed my family?”

He is one of 200 Inuit who received a layoff notice Sunday from the Oakville-based mining company.