Uranium company submits final impact statement for Nunavut mine

NIRB expects to distribute statement to the public by Oct. 16


AREVA Resouces Canada just submitted its final environmental impact statement for its proposed Kiggavik uranium mine near Baker Lake. This photo of the printed binders ran with the company's news release, on their website. (PHOTO COURTESY KIGGAVIK.CA)

AREVA Resouces Canada just submitted its final environmental impact statement for its proposed Kiggavik uranium mine near Baker Lake. This photo of the printed binders ran with the company’s news release, on their website. (PHOTO COURTESY KIGGAVIK.CA)

Six years after proposing Nunavut’s first uranium mine and milling operation west of Baker Lake, Areva Resources Canada has taken a big step forward by submitting its final environmental impact statement to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

The comprehensive document will contain hundreds, possibly thousands, of pages of data and analysis on how the proposed Kiggavik uranium project could affect nearby land, water, air, animals and people.

“We thank the people of Baker Lake and the Kivalliq Region for openly sharing their concerns and aspirations related to the potential development of the Kiggavik Project, in addition to the local knowledge they provided our team in the course of the studies performed for the FEIS,” said AREVA president Vincent Martin, in an Oct. 2 news release.

At the same time, Areva said uranium prices are too low right now to “favour a construction decision.”

The spot price for uranium on world markets stood at around US $35 per pound Oct. 2, down from the $60 price the commodity fetched in early 2011, just prior to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

But Areva said finishing the environmental assessment, “would allow the project to move forward with the next steps when the market improves as expected.”

The review board acknowledged in a letter released Oct. 2 that they have received Areva’s final EIS and that they’ve started a compliance review.

When they finish that work, they will make the huge, multi-volume document available to the public by Oct. 14.

Dozens of parties have been eagerly anticipating the submission of this statement and have requested copies of the final EIS, including the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, four federal government departments, private consultants, anti-nuke groups, as well as hunting, trapping and wildlife conservation organizations.

The impact statement follows scoping sessions, community consultations, technical meetings and public hearings which have been unfolding since 2010.

Once assessed and distributed to requesting parties, the NIRB will then hold final hearings on the Kiggavik project, as they just did in Rankin Inlet in August for Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold project, just outside that Kivalliq community.

Those final hearings could take place in 2015.

If Meliadine and Kiggavik go forward, that would make three operating mines in and around Rankin Inlet and Baker Lake — including the Meadowbank gold mine 110 kms from Baker Lake.

Wildlife and harvesting groups are concerned about the cumulative impact all this industrial activity could have on animals in the area, in particular, several herds of barren-ground caribou and their fragile calving grounds.

They have stressed those concerns to the Nunavut Planning Commission, which is finalizing its long-overdue Nunavut Land Use Plan, which sets out permitted and prohibited uses of land within the territory.

Areva submitted a draft environmental impact statement in 2012, but the NIRB sent it back due to what it described as “deficiencies.”

The draft land use plan was supposed to go through a public hearing in November, but NPC has said that’s not possible.

Proving that land use issues in Nunavut are never simple, the planning commission has filed a lawsuit with the Federal Court of Canada claiming Ottawa is breaking a promise, and submitting to political interference by refusing to pay the bill for the public hearing, estimated at $1.7 million.

For years, Canada was the world’s largest producer of uranium, accounting for more than one fifth of global production. Kazakhstan has held the number one spot now since 2009, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Areva, part of the Areva Group of Companies headquartered in France, enjoys a current net income of 294 million euros ($415 million Cdn) and employs more than 45,000 people worldwide.

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