The Mary River iron orebody of „Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation“ on Baffin Island in Nunavut is considered as one of the largest iron containing orebodies with more than 65 % content. This is good news for the economy and thereby growing wealth of the Canadian territory of Nunavut.

To exploit the iron ore of Mary River basin, the entire infrastructure had to be set up in an area 500 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.
To exploit the iron ore of Mary River basin, the entire infrastructure had to be set up in an area 500 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.

„Because of its high quality, it is an extraordinary iron orebody and shall be exploited now”, says Tom Paddon, CEO of “Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation”. He states the amount of iron ore with around 365 million tons. Since 2011, the enterprise belongs to 50 percent to “ArceloMittal” based in Luxemburg and London and to the US-American “Iron Ore Holdings LP”. The marketing of the iron ore is done by “ArcelorMitttal”. One important obstacle in the licensing process has been overcome in summer 2014- The Canadian federal government allowed the mining and shipping of 3.5 million tons of ore per annum. Therefore, in the third quarter of 2014 the exploitation of strip mining began. The ore is transported over a gravel road to the north side of the island and is stored there. In one year’s time, during the ice-free period from mid-July to mid-October, the shipping near the town of Pond Inlet should commence.

The iron ore is temporally stored in Milne Inlet, near the mine, before shipping.
The iron ore is temporally stored in Milne Inlet, near the mine, before shipping.

The production of raw materials 500 kilometer north of the Arctic Circle illustrates the potential of the Artic but also raises the question of how to overcome logistic and climate problems. The north of Canada and Greenland has large mineral resources but the exploitation only occurs slowly due to the geographical and climatic conditions and the ecological sensitivity of the Polar Regions. The German Institute for Geoscience and Resources assumes that, despite the mineral wealth of the Arctic region, its exploitation “will be rather the exception than the rule in the near future”. The commodity prices are the crucial governing or breaking factor. The price decline on the markets and the lack of willingness of investors have aggravated the financing of expensive projects and delayed investments.

Nowadays the ore is tranported via trucks to Milne Inlet. From 2019 onwards, a railway system will take over the trasportation
Nowadays the ore is tranported via trucks to Milne Inlet. From 2019 onwards, a railway system will take over the trasportation

Logistic challenges

Transportation of the iron ore poses a special challenge: the mineral is transported via truck over a gravel road to Milne Inlet on the northern coast, a embark point. However, Baffinland clings to the aim of building a railroad and a production quantity of 18 million tons a year.  The project has been confirmed by the Canadian government and the company also has a made a deal with the regional Inuit organization “Qikiqtani Inuit Association” which regulates the creation of jobs for Inuit, investments for communities and the royalties to the Inuit. However, the timing for the railroad construction and the shipping depends on the development of the market. According to Baffinland, the expansion could start already in 2015 and be finalized by 2019.