NIRB says no to Miramar’s gold mine

Bureaucrats want more info on protection of Victoria Island caribou herd


The Nunavut Impact Review Board said no this week to an application from the Miramar Mining Corp. for permission to build and operate its much-hyped Doris North gold mine in the Kitikmeot.

The board’s decision was posted on the Internet this past Monday.

In it, the board said Miramar has not provided enough information about how the Doris North mine would affect the endangered Victoria Island caribou herd, the quality of water at a nearby lake, and fish life near a proposed jetty.

But they’ve told the company that it’s free to submit a new application, with a beefed-up environmental impact statement containing the desired information.

“The board believes some day the mine can and perhaps should be built. That decision, one way or the other, is for another day,” the board said in its decision.

A new application must include a plan stating how the company intends to protect the Victoria Island — also known as “Dolphin Union” — caribou herd, which migrates back and forth between the Hope Bay area and Victoria Island.

In response, the company issued a statement saying they’ve already gone to work on a new application.

“Miramar started this work in July and is confident that it will be able to meet these requirements within an efficient time-frame,” the company statement said.

The Bathurst caribou herd, however, would not likely be affected by the mine, because it doesn’t roam that far north.

In the highly bureaucratized world of environmental assessment, applications for mining projects now live or die on the strength of a company’s “EIS” – or environmental impact statement.

An environmental impact statement is a lengthy document, produced and paid for by the company, that describes how a certain project will damage the environment, and how the company plans to lessen that damage.

By the time public hearings were held between July 11 and July 16 in the Kitikmeot, Miramar’s Doris North EIS was already getting bad reviews.

Joel Holder, the manager of land use for the GN’s Department of the Environment, said in a June 24 letter that GN officials were “disappointed” Miramar did not submit a plan to monitor and protect wildlife.

“DOE staff has had several communications with Miramar indicating our dissatisfaction with the information provided and was willing to work with Miramar in developing a plan. Unfortunately, to date, Miramar has not submitted a satisfactory Wildlife Monitoring and Mitigation Plan,” Holder’s letter said.

The GN then recommended the board deny Miramar’s application.

The Kitikmeot Inuit Association say they support the Doris North mine “in principle,” but their staff was also critical of the company’s EIS, citing a long list of issues related to wildlife monitoring, the fate of nearby bodies of water, and a lack of attention paid to Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.

The KIA also said mine development should not go ahead until the signing of a final Inuit impact and benefit agreement between KIA and Miramar.

Miramar’s proposed mine at Doris North is one of three projects that the company is developing in the Hope Bay area of the Kitikmeot, spread throughout an area of about 1,000 square kilometres.

The company wants to start with a small gold mine at Doris North, then use revenue from that operation to develop its other sites, called “Boston” and “Madrid.” The company says Doris North contains at least 586,000 ounces of proven gold resources, with an estimated mine life of only two years.

The entire Hope Bay region contains about 1.8 million ounces of proven gold resources, and 3.5 million ounces of “inferred,” or estimated resources.

Miramar’s proposed start day for Doris North was 2006. Company officials now say they’re “assessing” the mine’s schedule.

Some interveners, such as the Kitnuna Corp. – an Inuit-owned joint-venture construction firm owned by Nunasi Corp. and the Kitikmeot Corp. – said they welcome the economic benefits that the Doris North mine would bring.

But the board said Miramar did not strike the right balance between economic benefit and environmental protection.

“The board finds that the benefits considered by MHBL [the bureaucratic acronym for Miramar] for a two-year mine tend to distort the overall picture of the project by favouring the immediate economic benefits over the longer term costs to the ecosystem,” the decision says.

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