Located on the north side of Baffin Island in the Northwest Territories of Canada , the Mary River Project is one of the most isolated open pit mining sites in the world. Here winter temperatures average at -30 degrees Celsius and between November and January there is a 24-hour darkness. The site contains four iron ore deposits of which no. 1 has a total strike length of 4 km, containing no less than 365 tons of ore with <64% iron (mostly hematite and magnetite). The iron here is so pure that it needs no chemical processing and can be shipped and crushed right away. Supposedly, this has less impact on the environment. Ores are obtained by blasting ‘’12 diameter blast holes. So far more than 200 drill holes have been made over an area of 30km. Around 130,000 tons of ore has been shipped to Europe.
Since the area is so remote there are no roads or railways, all iron is transported by air or the sea (only during the short summer). However, this will change in the coming years, since a railroad is being constructed. The railroad will run for 150km to the Steensby Port facility where the bulk stockpile can be unloaded and shipped. This area was chosen because it remains ice-free most of the year. Thus, this will be the most northern railroad in the world.
There are some concerns however. The railway will have a huge impact on the migrating caribou on Baffin Island. Also, the increase of big ice breaking ships at Steensby Port will affect the living conditions of sea mammals. Another aspect are ancient inuksuk that are found all over this area of Baffin island. Inuksuk are stone markers built by the indigenous population of the area for at least the last 4500 years. They functioned as sacred places, and aid for hunters or for navigation. According to Carleton University Archaeologist Sylvie LeBlanc the area toward Steensby Inlet houses the longest intact navigation system of Inuksuk in the world.