Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou threatened by development
The Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (BQCMB) shares John Komak’s concerns about developments affecting caribou health, particularly mining “Bathurst caribou decimated by wolves, bears, mines, climate,” Editorial, Jan. 20, 2006.)
Mineral exploration has skyrocketed in northern Canada. As of Dec. 2005, 93 companies and individuals held almost 3,800 mineral rights on the ranges of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou herds in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories alone, including more than 350 mineral rights on the calving grounds of these two herds. The herds also migrate into Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Among mining companies on the ranges are such major players as De Beers Canada, Cameco Corporation, BHP Billiton and Urangesellschaft Canada Ltd. Uranium and diamond exploration is leading the surge. In fact, three uranium companies held all 81 mineral claims on the Beverly calving grounds, downstream of the Thelon Basin watershed, which is being hailed by uranium mining companies as the next Athabasca Basin, rich in high-grade uranium.
Road construction, hydroelectric power expansion, growing communities and southern hunters arriving via new roads are other threats to the caribou populations.
The Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou herds sustain 20 mainly aboriginal communities. While residents welcome the economic opportunities that mines and other industrial developments bring, they don’t want them at the expense of the caribou herds.
In January, the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization sent a letter to the ministers of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and Nunavut’s Department of Environment asking that no new mineral permits be approved or issued for 2006 for a large area extending from the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary north to the Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary and east to the community of Baker Lake.
Action is urgently needed to protect the caribou herds and their habitat. Little is known about the recent seasonal distribution of the Beverly herd, and the BQCMB is working with governments, non-profit organizations and private companies to learn more through satellite collaring. It’s hoped population surveys for both the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq herds will go ahead in June 2007 — a first since 1994.
In 2004, the BQCMB made many recommendations to governments for protection of the herds and their habitat from human-caused activity. Your readers can learn more about these at our website, www.arctic-caribou.com.
They can also report information online about caribou disturbances they may have witnessed, or get caribou disturbance observation cards — handy for detailing notes when out on the land — by phoning (204) 467-2438 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board