Nunavut’s Kiggavik uranium mine still part of our plans: Areva
“Our intent is to be a good corporate citizen”
Areva Resources Canada addressed the doubters March 13 by insisting that despite the lack of a firm start date, the Kiggavik uranium mine is still a part of the company’s future.
But because it’s Nunavut’s first uranium mine, it will still require several years of permitting and planning before development can begin.
“Since about 2013, we’ve been calling this a project for the (2020s) and 30s,” said Barry McCallum, Areva’s manager of Nunavut affairs. “Even from now, there are three to five years of permitting required still.”
“It’s always been our plan to make a decision after the environmental assessment process,” he added. “We have been mining uranium in Canada for decades and [Kiggavik] is in our plans.”
A two-week, Nunavut Impact Review Board public hearing into Areva’s final environmental impact statement just wrapped up in Baker Lake March 14 and the company said the process was positive and informative.
“All uranium projects go through an environmental assessment process in Canada, but this is our first in a northern setting,” said McCallum.
“And we’re very pleased with the attendance and the knowledge of the questions.”
Areva plans to spend more than $2 billion to construct a uranium mine about 80 kilometres west of Baker Lake comprised of four open pits and one underground operation.
But the company has undergone heavy criticism from local groups who oppose the project — and who opposed uranium mining in Nunavut in general.
The hearings started with a motion filed by the Baker Lake hunters and trappers organization, requesting that the hearing be suspended because Areva has yet to provide a firm project start date.
The HTO called the project’s review a “waste of our resources” given that it currently has no launch date and therefore, may never go ahead.
The lack of a launch date — and concerns over how the project might impact nearby caribou calving and post-calving grounds — also prompted the Kivalliq Wildlife Board to pass a resolution at the end of February opposing the uranium project.
But the motion, which didn’t pass in the end, did not discourage Areva. McCallum said the company has always been clear about the long-term nature of the project.
Areva found more willing partners in the hamlet of Baker Lake, which says it is prepared to work with the company so long as local people support it.
But hamlet officials, who met with Areva staff last month, say they also want assurances that the company can help meet the growing infrastructure needs in their community of about 1,800 people, which has already undergone growth as a result of Agnico Eagle Mines’ nearby Meadowbank gold mine.
“Areva very much wants the communities of the Kivalliq to feel like they’re benefiting from the project,” McCallum said. “Our intent is to be a good corporate citizen.”
Areva keeps in touch with the community and region through its community liaison office in Baker Lake.
Currently, Areva runs an advanced exploration operation out of its Kiggavik site between June and September each year.
Since 2007, Areva’s exploration activities have employed anywhere between 12 and 30 Inuit, mostly from Baker Lake, but also from neighbouring Kivalliq communities.
For example, McCallum said the company has been able to hire five graduates from Arviat’s drilling program.
“It’s a relatively small presence,” McCallum said. “But it will increase greatly with the construction phase.
“We’ve been engaging and communicating with the Kivalliq communities since 2006 and we appreciate their input very much,” he added.
“We’ve very committed to this environmental assessment process and we look forward to the decision.”