“Disappointed” by Ottawa’s decision, Areva suspends Nunavut uranium project
Project “may be revisited at some point when it is feasible”
Areva Resources Canada Inc.’s Kiggavik uranium project is officially suspended, and the company says it has no immediate plans to re-submit a proposal to Nunavut regulators.
Earlier this week, the federal government accepted the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s 2015 recommendation, which advised that the project not proceed for the time being due to the absence of a firm start date.
In a July 25 letter to the NIRB, Indigenous and Northern Affairs minister Carolyn Bennett wrote: “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.’ “
The Kiggavik project, 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.
During March hearings in Baker Lake, located about 80 kilometres from the project site, the company said it envisioned the project could be operating by some time in the 2020s or 2030s.
“We’re disappointed with the outcome, for sure,” said Barry McCallum, a project advisor to Areva.
“The project is suspended, and may be revisited at some point when it is feasible. That remains a possibility.”
No exploration activities are planned this summer at Areva’s property, McCallum said, where a crew has just spent 10 days securing the camp.
“The site’s been left in a state where it can be re-opened,” he said.
To re-launch the project, Areva would have to modify and re-submit its proposal, re-starting the entire environmental assessment process.
“But since [market] conditions haven’t changed, we still wouldn’t have a start date,” he said.
The Financial Times reported that the price for uranium hit $24.90 per pound last week, its lowest level since 2005.
While INAC agreed with the NIRB’s decision, minister Bennett also noted in her letter to the NIRB that delays are “a common situation for proposed developments in the North.”
“The [NIRB] should continue to assess each project based on its specific circumstances and, if possible, consider terms and conditions that can accommodate uncertainties with respect to the commencement of a project,” Bennett wrote.
McCallum said he hopes to see those kinds of provisions applied to future development projects in Nunavut.
“Had we known that the lack of start date would have been such an obstacle to approval, we would have changed our approach,” McCallum said, adding the company would have opted to suspend the environmental review until a time when it could have provided a more specific timeline.
“It’ll take some time for us to determine our next steps,” he said. “And when we do, we’ll be in touch with stakeholders in the Kivalliq.”
The federal government’s ruling was welcomed by a number of Inuit groups in the region, including the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization.
“There were serious problems with what Areva was proposing,” said the HTO’s chair Jamie Seekeenak in a July 26 release.
“We recognized it, the Nunavut Impact Review Board recognized it, so it only makes sense for the government to recognize it as well.”