Baffinland's Award-Winning Community & Economic Development Campaign
Mining in extreme locations is never easy, and it doesn’t get much more extreme than Baffinland Iron Mines Corp’s Mary River Project – existing in one of the most isolated northern areas in the world, the open pit mine on the north side of Baffin Island is marked by challenges like -30°C (-22°F) temperatures and 24-hour darkness throughout the winter.
But instead of doing the bare minimum necessary to accomplish its mining goals, Baffinland has transformed its Mary River Project into a site of impressive opportunity. That effort has not gone unnoticed – this week at the 2014 Nunavut Mining Symposium Gala Dinner, Baffinland received the prestigious Murray Pyke Award recognizing the mining company for its dedication to economic and social community development within the region.
“Baffinland has been a solid player on Nunavut’s mining scene for many years,” said Bernie MacIsaac, co-chair of the Nunavut Mining Symposium Society, upon presenting the award to Baffinland. “The recent signing of the IIBA agreement with QIA certainly shows they have made the grade and we are looking forward to hearing more good news out of them.”
That Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement, signed in September of 2013, solidified Baffinland’s partnership with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) and made the excavation of the Mary River Project possible. That makes it a beneficial deal for Baffinland, considering that the mine is expected to return 3.5 million tons of iron ore per year. But it’s of great benefit to the Qikiqtani community as well with promise to source workers from the local community and a budget to support the community in various ways from education to the promotion of local business growth:
As part of the IIBA, an implementation budget will be created with several funds, which includes:
- Business capacity and start-up fund — $250,000 per year paid by BIMC until commercial production begins;
- Ilagiiktunut Nunalinnullu Pivalliajutisait Kiinaujat Fund (a fund to offset negative social or cultural impacts created by the project and to help distribute benefits) — $750,000 per year paid by BIMC and QIA equally for the first six years;
- Education and training fund — $1 million for the first two years the IIBA is in effect, paid by BIMC;
- Scholarship fund — $25,000 each year paid by BIMC;
- Workplace orientation programs; and,
- Money to pay the costs associated with implementation of any rights, obligation or requirements of the IIBA.
At the time of its signing, QIA representatives called it a “historic moment,” as the biggest IIBA to ever come to Nunavut and one filled with unprecedented promise for employment and contract award issuance opportunities for Nunavut’s native Qikiqtani community.
“The Mary River Project has the ability to greatly contribute to the development of infrastructure, skills training, and employment and business opportunities for the people of Nunavut,” said Baffinland President and CEO Tom Paddon. “The success of the project, however, relies on the cooperation of all stakeholders, working together to achieve mutual benefits from the ground up.”
British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.