NIRB postpones Jericho hearings

Government agencies question Tahera’s EIS


Public hearings into Tahera Corp.’s small diamond mine proposal have been put on hold, giving the company more time to answer questions about its environmental impact statement (EIS).

Tahera, which is based in Toronto, proposes to invest about $50 million in a diamond mine located near Contwoyto Lake, close to the Nunavut-Northwest Territories boundary line.

“There were a number of submissions that asked the company to provide additional information in order that a more thorough analysis of the draft EIS [ environmental impact statement] be conducted,” said Stephanie Briscoe, the executive director of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB).

The NIRB’s job is to screen the company’s EIS, and make recommendations to federal government regulators, especially the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

As part of that work, NIRB scheduled public hearings to be held from May 26 to May 30 in Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk and Gjoa Haven.

But Kitikmeot residents will have to wait a while longer to attend those hearings and get more information about the Jericho project.

That’s because, after running a gauntlet of government agencies and acronymic organizations, Tahera’s proposal faces a long list of questions, especially over water use issues.

Nunavut’s department of sustainable development, for example, said in a letter the document was “difficult to follow,” and that information ranged from “adequate to deficient.”

DIAND’s response said Tahera’s EIS contained “substantial deficiencies” related to “water quality, water quantity, and land disturbance issues.”

Submissions from Health Canada, Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. made similar criticisms.

The KIA submission said Tahera did not make adequate use of traditional Inuit knowledge.

But Briscoe says the delayed hearings don’t represent a criticism of the company.

“The board’s decision is not meant to be a negative on the company. It’s simply an opportunity to gather more information, so that all the people involved in the process can make a more informed decision,” Briscoe said.

Tahera says the Jericho mine would last for about eight years, and provide jobs for 110 to 175 people, including contractors. For three years, the company would mine using an open-pit, and for the next two years, an underground tunnel.

The project is only about one-twentieth the size of BHP’s massive Ekati mine in the Northwest Territories, and would cover an area of land that’s only one-quarter of the area covered by the community of Kugluktuk.

But it would be Nunavut’s first diamond mine, and the first new mine to open in Nunavut since April 1, 1999

Briscoe says that after Tahera and the various stakeholders make an attempt to answer questions and reach consensus on the environmental impact of the project, the NIRB will re-schedule the public hearings.

“At the end of the day, there may be issues that people disagree on,” Briscoe said.

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