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Rejected Nunavut gold project seeks support from CamBay hamlet council

Sabina wants a second chance from Ottawa, Nunavut regulators


Cambridge Bay hamlet councillors prepare to hear a presentation from Sabina Gold and Silver Corp. at their Sept. 19 meeting. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Cambridge Bay hamlet councillors prepare to hear a presentation from Sabina Gold and Silver Corp. at their Sept. 19 meeting. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

CAMBRIDGE BAY—Another letter of support for its Back River gold mine project, whose future is now in limbo: That’s what Sabina Gold and Silver Corp. would like to receive from the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay.

To that end, Matthew Pickard, Sabina’s vice president for the environment and sustainability, pitched the western Nunavut mine project, by telephone, to the hamlet council Sept. 19.

He also provided an overview of what has taken place since June 15, when the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended that Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and other federal ministers reject the project.

Since then, the Government of Nunavut and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association have asked Bennett to send the project proposal back to the NIRB for reconsideration.

But that’s only one of three regulatory scenarios presented by Pickard, who said Bennett could also decide to accept the project, over-riding the NIRB’s concerns—or, under the “worst-case scenario,” she could decide to reject the project.

This would mean, to save its project and investment, Sabina would have to restart the entire regulatory process.

According to Pickard’s presentation, the Back River project will still suffer a delay of up to two years unless Bennett accepts it as is.

“We are prepared to work through all three scenarios and believe there are no unresolvable issues,” Pickard said,

If the hamlet councillors want to write a letter of support for the project, it would be better to send such a letter “sooner than later,” he suggested.

Several councillors said they didn’t feel they had enough information on the project, but they agreed to read up on it and then consider a draft letter of support to Sabina for Sept. 26.

Pickard told the councillors he was “surprised” that the NIRB had rejected the project.

“It was not anticipated,” he said.

The NIRB said the project’s environmental impact statement contained inadequate plans for protecting caribou and that its potential impacts on caribou herds were likely too great to mitigate.

But Pickard said the company is willing to go even further in its monitoring and mitigation measures, which would include a staged shut-down of operations if the mine site interferes with calving grounds.

Sabina’s Back River project would comprise a chain of open pit and underground mines at an inland location about 400 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay and 520 km north of Yellowknife.

The project would operate for at least 10 years and involved damming or draining lakes and streams and building a 157-km road from the mine to a seasonal docking facility and fuel tank farm at Bathurst Inlet.

All that infrastructure would be created on lands that the Bathurst and Beverly caribou herds migrate through.

In recent years, the population of the Bathurst herd has plunged to as few as 20,000 animals, down from nearly half a million.

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