Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut July 26, 2016 - 7:00 am

Ottawa accepts NIRB’s no on Nunavut uranium mine

Ministers of INAC, NRCan, DFO and Transport agree Kiggavik "should not proceed at this time"

An aerial view of the exploration camp at Areva's Kiggavik uranium project near Baker Lake. (FILE PHOTO)
An aerial view of the exploration camp at Areva's Kiggavik uranium project near Baker Lake. (FILE PHOTO)

It’s a no once again for the Areva Canada Resources Kiggavik uranium mine project near the central Nunavut community of Baker Lake.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended in May 2015 that the project should not proceed.

And now, more than a year later, the four federal ministers with authority over the project say they accept the NIRB’s recommendation, and have sealed the project’s fate with a final decision.

The NIRB released a letter from Indigenous and Northern Affairs minister Carolyn Bennett, late July 25, which arrived at the NIRB’s Cambridge Bay office earlier that day.

In the letter, Bennett said the ministers of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Natural Resources, Transport, and Indigenous and Northern Affairs, who have jurisdictional responsibility for deciding whether the Kiggavik Project should or should not proceed, “have accepted the NIRB’s determination that the project should not proceed at this time.”

“We accept the board’s conclusion that ‘the absence of a definite start dated for the project, and the admitted necessity of revisiting the predictions in the Final Environment Assessment in future, adversely affected its consideration and the weight and confidence which it could give to assessments of project specific and cumulative effects.’ “

That said, in her letter Bennett suggested there will “often be some uncertainty with respect to the start date and development schedule for major resource developments.”

“This is a common situation for proposed developments in the North,” she wrote, urging that the NIRB should consider every mining project on its own merits.

Areva may resubmit the Kiggavik project at a later date, Bennett said.

Areva had asked the federal government to reject the NIRB’s final report.

Under Article 12 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, the federal ministers could have:

• accepted the NIRB’s report on Kiggavik;

• rejected the report on the grounds that the project is in the national or regional interest; or

• asked the NIRB to consider terms and conditions that should be attached to a project approval.

In March 2015, numerous government agencies, non-governmental organizations and Baker Lake residents weighed in on Areva’s 10,000-page environmental impact statement.

The Kiggavik scheme, which would have been located at two sites, Kiggavik and Sissons, comprised four open pits and one underground operation, with an estimated lifespan of about 12 years.

Areva said it envisioned the project could be operating by some time in the 2020s or 2030s.

But opponents of the proposal, such as the Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit group, said the Kiggavik mine project posed a serious risk to the long-term viability of the Kivalliq region’s caribou herds and that its environmental risks outweighed its economic benefits.

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