Iron ore shipping to world markets from the Canadian Arctic region has recently spiked significantly, responding to demands from steel producers. Noteworthy, too, has been the recent voyages by bulk carriers taking a shortcut via the Northern Sea Route to the Russian Far East from one of the world’s most northerly mines.
Located on Baffin Island, the fifth largest island in the world with an area of some 200,000 square miles, Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation announced a record 2018 shipping program. From July 24 to October 17, Baffinland shipped approximately 5.1 million metric tons of iron ore from its Milne Inlet port to markets in Europe, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, and Japan.
That amounted to a 20% increase over the previous record of 4.1 million tons shipped in 2017. Seventy-one voyages were executed, carrying an average of 71,750 tonnes of iron ore each over an 86-day period. It was the largest shipping program by volume ever executed in the Canadian High Arctic, Baffinland said.
Montreal-based Fednav Limited manages the on-site port and shipping operations.
Jointly owned by leading steel enterprise ArcelorMittal and Nunavut Iron Ore, Baffinland carried out two Northern Sea Route (NSR) transits to Asia. The Nordic Olympic and the Nordic Oshima, both 1A ice-class vessels operated by Denmark’s Nordic Bulk Carriers, shipped a total of about 160.000 tons of high-grade iron ore from the Mary River deposits.
It was the first time Nordic’s ships sailed from the Canadian Arctic to Asia via the NSR. “In 2019, we hope there will be more,” indicated Nordic Managing Director Mads Boye Petersen.
Commenting on the 2018 season, Brian Penney, president and CEO of Baffinland stated: “As we focus on our expansion program, a successful, safe, and responsible shipping season remains a critical component of our growth. Along with our employees, I want to thank all of our partners involved in making this program a success. This includes our shipping partners and the continued support of the North Baffin communities and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.”
Consistent with last year’s successful shipping program, Baffinland again deployed elaborate health and safety control systems and conducted environmental monitoring to adhere to strict environmental standards, developed in collaboration with the North Baffin communities. This included providing real-time vessel locations and an onboard monitoring program supported by the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization to ensure no adverse environmental impacts or impacts on Inuit shipping vessels. These programs combined scientific and traditional Inuit knowledge. No health and safety or environmental incidents occurred during the shipping program.
Meanwhile, the ducks now appear to be in place for Baffinland to move ahead - when market conditions are deemed opportune - with its ambitious Phase 2 expansion after receiving critical regulatory approval from the Nunavut Impact Review Board. This expansion focuses on the construction of a 75 mile railway from the Mary River mine to Milne Port and doubling production to 12 million tons annually. Final go-ahead remains to be announced.