Nunavut regulator requests updated FEIS on rejected Nunavut gold project
Review board to hold additional public hearing on Back River project
The Nunavut Impact Review Board has launched its re-assessment process for Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.’s Back River gold project with a Jan. 23 request to the mining company for updates to its Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS.
“The NIRB believes that provision of an updated FEIS document or addendum by the proponent would be the most effective means of providing additional information and highlighting existing information regarding the effects assessment for the Back River Project…” the NIRB’s Jan. 23 letter said.
The NIRB confirmed its plans Jan. 24 to schedule a public hearing to consider the updated FEIS document.
The letter comes on the heels of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett’s Jan. 12 letter, which sent the NIRB’s final public hearing report on the project back to the review board.
After a four-and-a half-year environmental assessment, the NIRB rejected the Kitikmeot gold mine proposal last year, noting certain environmental and social impacts it found too great to mitigate.
But Bennett said some of the report’s findings were “premature,” suggesting there was room for more discussion.
The NIRB has now asked Sabina to focus its updated FEIS on the findings the federal minister flagged as “uncertain” in her decision: the potentially adverse ecosystemic effects on caribou and other terrestrial wildlife; the freshwater aquatic environment; the marine environment; water quality (ground and surface) and climate and meteorology.
The NIRB has asked the company to confirm its plans to update the project’s FEIS “as soon as possible.”
Following receipt of the updated report, the board will do an internal review of the FEIS and then initiative a public technical review, inviting written submissions from stakeholders.
After that, the board will then formally schedule a public hearing, input from which it will use to prepare an updated public hearing report, which will go back to federal ministers for their consideration.
This is the first time in the NIRB’s roughly 20-year history that it’s seen a public hearing report sent back for further review.
The board will now have to apply for a budget from Ottawa to fund the re-assessment. Its 2016 public hearing for the Back River proposal ran at around $300,000, though a second review isn’t expected to be as expensive an undertaking.
The Back River proposal includes a chain of open pit and underground mines at its Goose property, located 400 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay and 520 km north of Yellowknife.
Sabina has said the project could suffer a delay of up to two years if the project was not accepted, but has also that “there are no unresolvable issues.”