Grays Bay road-port scheme threatens Bathurst caribou herd, WWF says
Conservation org fears GN biologists may not be allowed to speak openly about project impacts
The Grays Bay Road and Port Project likely threatens the health of the dwindling Bathurst caribou herd, whose core calving grounds lie along the project’s proposed road, the World Wildlife Fund-Canada said in a statement Aug. 28.
“This herd has been in steep decline in recent years and its rebound is not guaranteed. This project will only serve to hinder the herd’s recovery,” Paul Crowley, WWF-Canada’s vice-president of Arctic conservation, said Aug. 28 in a statement.
At the same time, the WWF fears the Government of Nunavut will not allow its expert biologists to speak openly about the project’s impacts during the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s upcoming assessment of the scheme.
“Finally, with its recent history of making decisions behind closed doors, I am very concerned that the Government of Nunavut, a proponent of this project, will not allow their own department of environment expert biologists to speak openly about the impacts the project will have on the land and in the ocean,” Crowley said.
In July 2016, the GN and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association signed a memorandum of understanding for the massive transportation proposal, which would create a deep water Arctic port at Grays Bay attached to a 230-kilometre all-season road that would hook up with a winter road to Yellowknife.
The GN and the Kitikmeot Inuit hope construction of the $500-million transportation system might persuade MMG Canada to revive work on its rich base metal deposits at Izok Lake and High Lake.
MMG Canada has said that on its own, it can’t afford to bear the cost of building its own road and port to carry ore to market from those properties.
Last week, the company’s president, Sahba Safavi, told Nunatsiaq News that if funding for the Grays Bay road and port were approved, they would revise their project proposal and re-initiate the MMG’s regulatory process at the Nunavut Impact Review Board for Izok Lake and High Lake.
The GN and the KIA applied to Industry Canada for funding last year, hoping that up to 75 per cent of the Grays Bay project’s $500-million cost, about $365 million, would be covered by public money, with the rest to be raised by tolls on road users and contributions from the GN.
But Ottawa has not yet agreed to cough up the cash.
The WWF, however, says this means Canadian taxpayers are being asked to pay for a project that potentially threatens wildlife.
“The Government of Nunavut and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association are trying to make the case for a substantial investment from Canadian taxpayers into a road through the core calving grounds of the Bathurst caribou herd,” said Paul Crowley, WWF-Canada’s vice president of Arctic conservation.
The population of the Bathurst caribou herd stood at around 450,000 animals in the mid-1980s, but as of 2015, that number had shrunk to around 16,000.
This means all Canadians need information about the Grays Bay project before any public money is spent on it, Crowley said.
“This is a massive project. Canadians, as well as citizens of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut need to fully understand the impacts, as well as the benefits, before public money is invested.”
The KIA’s wholly owned subsidiary, the Nunavut Resource Corp., would be directly involved in building the project. This past fall, the Nunavut Resource Corp. chair, Charlie Evalik, described Grays Bay as “the most beneficial infrastructure project in Nunavut.”