Britain’s richest man is planning a massive open cut iron ore mine, worth a potential $21 billion, in the Arctic Circle.
Steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and his firm ArcleorMittal is the driving force behind the project, which would include the construction of a 150km railway and two new ports in the region, the Guardian reports.
To date, the company has already spent $558 million acquiring Baffinland Iron mines in the region, to develop the Mary river deposits in the Canadian arctic.
The project will employ more than 2000 workers to construct 24 bridges, roads, airstrips, ports and infrastructure.
The railway is predicted to take four years to build.
A spokesperson for ArcelorMittal told the Guardian that the project is currently in the environmental assessment process during which NGOs, governments and individuals are invited to review the plans.
“Included in the environmental impact statement (EIS) are detailed management, mitigation, and monitoring plans, which will allow for potential impacts to be minimised. All aspects of the project, through construction, operation and closure will be evaluated and will adhere to the conditions established for the project through this process,” the spokesperson said.
However, it has seen a backlash from environmental groups, who say its construction will seriously damage native animal species.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) called the proposed mine a potential ‘game changer’.
“It is certainly … of a scale that would be massive anywhere in the world," said Martin von Mirbach, a director of the Arctic programme at WWF in Canada.
While the group demanded the company proceed with extreme caution in the mine’s development, it is not completely against the mine’s construction.
"This is a test case on the potential for carrying out large-scale industrial development in the Canadian Arctic in an appropriate way. We would like to see better information about a project whose scale would be massive wherever it was in the world,” von Mirbach said.
In the previous environmental impact statement for Baffinland Iron Mines, the company stated that it would work hard to prevent contamination from wastewater and explosive equipment-washing but they admit: "building sections of the railway into the edge of several lakes will be unavoidable … some fish habitat will be lost."
The EIS also stated that "accidental kills of caribou could occur as a result of project activity" and that "small numbers of ringed seal mortalities could occur as a result of icebreaking activity."
While the miner said a large diesel spill "would have significant environmental effects" it believed the event to be unlikely.
Development of the Arctic Circle and Greenland has increased as temperatures rise and ice levels reduce.