Western Nunavut Inuit org strikes impact agreement with gold miner

Mine will provide “significant social and economic opportunities and benefits to the Inuit of the Kitikmeot”


A map of where Sabina's Back River gold project is located, about 400 km southwest of Cambridge Bay in western Nunavut. (FILE PHOTO)

A map of where Sabina’s Back River gold project is located, about 400 km southwest of Cambridge Bay in western Nunavut. (FILE PHOTO)

Sabina Gold and Silver Corp. and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association have finalized an Inuit impact and benefit agreement for the company’s Back River gold project south of Bathurst Inlet in western Nunavut.

The two organizations announced the series of benefits agreements on April 23. They will allow Sabina to undertake exploration work on Inuit-owned land at its Goose property at Back River.

In exchange, the regional Inuit association will receive a one-per-cent production royalty as well as shares in Sabina and a commitment to Inuit employment and training.

“These agreements allow a mine to be built and operated on Inuit-owned land and will provide significant social and economic opportunities and benefits to the Inuit of the Kitikmeot,” KIA President Stanley Anablak said in a news release on Monday, April 23.

Anablak said the mining company was “very professional” in its negotiations, while he wished Sabina success in its development plans.

Sabina’s plans for Back River include a chain of open pit and underground mines at its Goose property.

The pits are expected to operate for at least 10 years and would involve filling, damming or draining lakes and streams and building a 157-km road from the mine to a seasonal port and tank farm at Bathurst Inlet.

Sabina hopes to produce about 200,000 ounces of gold per year with an initial investment of $415 million.

The 20-year agreement remains confidential, besides certain details. But the KIA and Inuit in the region are set to receive:

• A one-per-cent net smelter royalty paid out on production at Back River properties that are subject to a commercial lease.

• 6.7 million Sabina shares, subject to regulatory approval next month.

• An initial investment of $4 million in “regional wealth creation” initiatives in the Kitikmeot.

• Unspecified commitments to Inuit employment, training and education; Kitikmeot business opportunities and investments in community infrastructure.

• The formation of an Inuit Environmental Advisory Committee.

• An annual payment of $1 million to cover the KIA’s cost of implementing the “framework agreement.”

• Water and wildlife agreements, including additional payments if Sabina fails to implement caribou mitigation plans.

After initially saying no the mining project in 2016 over environmental concerns, the Nunavut Impact Review Board evaluated revised project plans in 2017 and gave it a green light.

The NIRB said Sabina’s new plans outline some of the most robust caribou protection measures ever developed for the Arctic, including preparation for the possibility of the project overlapping with caribou calving grounds (though the proposed project currently does not).

In December 2017, the federal government gave its own stamp of approval to the gold project.

In the same April 23 release, Sabina said the agreements demonstrate that “Nunavut is a pro-responsible development/mining region and it’s ‘open for business’ strategy.”

The company is now in its licensing phase; Back River received its Type B water license in January and expects to secure its Type A water license later this year.

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