Approving uranium project will only alienate Nunavut Inuit: Mining Watch

“Inuit would rightfully feel like their voice does not matter”


Areva Resources Canada's office in Baker Lake, about 80 kilometres from the company's proposed Kiggavik uranium project site. (FILE PHOTO)

Areva Resources Canada’s office in Baker Lake, about 80 kilometres from the company’s proposed Kiggavik uranium project site. (FILE PHOTO)

MiningWatch Canada is urging the federal government to take the advice of the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which advised that a Nunavut uranium project should not move forward for now.

The mining watchdog group sent a July 28 letter to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt, asking him to uphold the NIRB’s decision on Areva Resources Canada’s Kiggavik mine proposal.

MiningWatch’s letter comes just weeks after Areva asked the federal government to reject the NIRB’s report, which recommends the proposed uranium project not go ahead because of the company’s lack of firm start date.

“It is entirely inappropriate for a proponent to propose a major mining project without any start date, let alone wait until after a review has concluded to bring forward vital arguments and information related to substantial community concerns,” Ugo Lapointe, Canadian program co-ordinator at MiningWatch Canada, said in a news release.

“Overturning the NIRB recommendation would serve to further alienate Aboriginal peoples from regulatory processes, and erode trust between Inuit and the mining industry in Nunavut,” Lapointe added. “Inuit would rightfully feel like their voice does not matter, despite the existence of a negotiated land claim agreement.”

In its letter, MiningWatch says that Areva had “no substantive engagement with community concerns regarding the start date until after the final hearings.”

MiningWatch also says Areva’s suggestion that Kiggavik should be approved because a review of TMAC Resources’ Hope Bay gold project continued despite the lack of a firm start date does not hold up, because there was little public concern expressed around that project in general.

The organization notes that community concerns around the Kiggavik project were much broader than just the project’s start date.

“The lack of a project commencement date only serves to amplify these other sources of uncertainty,” the MiningWatch letter said.

That’s not to mention the depressed uranium market and Areva’s financial standing, which MiningWatch describes as “technically bankrupt” since the company’s share dropped 90 per cent from its peak value in 2007.

“Accordingly, there appears to be no rationale for your ministry to not accept the NIRB recommendation,” the letter addressed to Valcourt said.

Earlier this month, Quebec’s environmental impact review board released a report following a province-wide commission that said it would be “premature” to allow the uranium sector to develop in Quebec, given the lack of both information and social acceptance on the issue.

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