Diamond mine proposal draws concerns for wildlife, environment

De Beers Group proposing a diamond mine in South Baffin, closest to Iqaluit and Pangnirtung

De Beers Group submitted its proposal for the Chidliak Diamond Mine in September. While the project would have economic benefits to the closest communities, governments and regional organizations expressed concern for caribou and polar bear populations. (File photo)

By David Lochead

Concern for caribou and polar bear populations is prominent in the responses from governments and northern organizations to De Beers Canada’s proposal for its Chidliak diamond mine project.

De Beers submitted its project proposal to the Nunavut Impact Review Board on Sept. 7. The mine will be located off the Hall Peninsula, about 120 kilometres from Iqaluit.

The responses also expressed concern for the mine’s impact on Inuit harvesting lands as well as on wildlife in the area.

De Beers spokesperson Terry Kruger told Nunatsiaq News the company understands its responsibility to ensure no harm comes to land, water and wildlife.

“We are now in the process of reviewing the comments and we look forward to working with all reviewers as we move through the next steps in the NIRB process,” Kruger said.

The area being explored by De Beers is 42,000 hectares in size and includes 74 kimberlites, which are the rocks that contain diamonds.

In its proposal, De Beers stated 36 kimberlites in the project area will be used, with a small open or underground mine at each kimberlite.

The project site will include an airstrip, quarry and access road and there would be 300 personnel at the site. If approved, the mine could open as early as 2026 and its closure phase would start in 2045.

De Beers said it has had consultations with key local groups and individuals in the two closest communities, Iqaluit and Pangnirtung, including hunters and trappers organizations.

The company also said it will work to minimize its impact on the area by prioritizing low-carbon efforts for mining, such as using technology that will allow its processing plant to be mobile.

That also includes possibly using wind, solar, electrical or nuclear as energy sources for the mine. It is considering extending a powerline from Iqaluit, to be more energy efficient.

However, regional organizations and government agencies still expressed concerns in their comments on the proposal.

Chris Spencer, manager of regulatory affairs for the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, said QIA is concerned for caribou calving grounds that may be affected on South Baffin because of the mine.

He added caribou populations are already seeing decline.

In terms of De Beers’ attempts at a lower carbon, mobile mine, Spencer noted that the technology has not been used yet in the Arctic.

“The QIA must be engaged in this process to ensure that any preferred option(s) adequately reflect Inuit interests, priorities, including adequate integration of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ principles),” Spencer wrote of the assessment of the mine.

Speaking for the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board, its director of wildlife and environment Michael Ferguson wrote that a mine could have a long-term impact on caribou, since that animal’s population cycles can last a human lifetime.

“When caribou densities are low, and when caribou distributions are limited and scattered, as they are currently, caribou are known to be especially sensitive,” Ferguson said of the mine’s potential disturbance of caribou.

Agnes Simonfalvy, the Avatiliriniq co-ordinator for the Government of Nunavut, wrote that with the economic opportunity plus the potential environmental impact of a diamond mine, the project is likely to gain significant local attention.

She said that outside of caribou, the diamond mine’s location also overlaps with the summer polar bear population. Polar bears are listed federally as a species of concern, she added.

The federal department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada also acknowledged the economic opportunities and environmental concerns the mining project presents, but added Inuit employment and businesses should be prioritized if the project goes ahead.

All regional organizations and government agencies stated more information on the mining project would be needed before they could fully assess whether it is feasible.

De Beers has said it will provide more information once it concludes its pre-feasibility study of the project in 2023.

According to a guide produced by De Beers, the approximate timeline of a Nunavut Impact Review Board review is 283 to 400 days before it recommends a project’s approval or rejection to the federal government.

That includes looking over the technical aspects of a project.

 

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(25) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern Guy on

    If this mine goes ahead, it will be a game changer for Iqaluit. The effects will be very similar to what was experienced by Yellowknife when the Ekati and Diavik mines started up.

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    • Posted by Doubtful on

      Game changer? Unlikely. Royalty paid to crown only, not on Inuit owned lands, and it is a small mine. Meliadine and Meadowbank didn’t turn any Kivalliq communities into a “Yellowknife”.

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      • Posted by Uvaga ajursatuq on

        Are the homeless people NOT more important than the animals……this mine could bring $$$ to the city and this $$$ could sheltered many many homeless people and none making money people down there…..and the life line of the mine will be about less than 40 years…..and most of us that are old now will be gone at that time….my thoughts….AND….nowadays….we are relaying on the store bought foods……

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        • Posted by true dat! on

          Nobody is hunting for sustenance anymore. Caribou farming is a possibility if naysayers are worried about caribou stocks.

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          • Posted by point of view on

            I guess nobody around you are hunting.

            All spring/summer, this fall and this coming winter there is and will be many men, women, and children going hunting in many Nunavut communities. This is a fact!

            Please don’t generalize all Nunavut through your eyes, because from my point of view, we are constantly hunting, along with many people.

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            • Posted by true dat! on

              I guess I should clarify hunting for sustenance, no one is 100% dependent on hunting/gathering . I am echoing the post above that people now rely on store bought food. Not saying we should destroy the environment but to have the skidoos, boats, atv, etc for hunting, we need jobs that pays the $$$. We need less handouts.

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            • Posted by jenny on

              i bet you 20 bucks that they will waste the $$$$ on something useless lol
              after we found out, ill will get back to you 😀

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            • Posted by Observer on

              I’ve been in pretty much every Nunavut community and the majority of people I’ve seen do not hunt.

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              • Posted by John K on

                But they’ll still put hunting on their leave application.

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  2. Posted by Jobs on

    Mines produce jobs. That’s the benefit, royalties are the added gravy train. Live long and prosper, get a job at a mine.

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  3. Posted by miner 46er on

    Yes. Lets sell the diamonds in the ground for $1 per pound. Let the South Africans worry about getting the diamonds out of the ground.

    Taima

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  4. Posted by Sheila Kalinovits on

    We don’t need MORE DIAMONDS!

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    • Posted by Will Turner on

      How about more jobs? No?

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  5. Posted by 867 on

    Any company that wants to set up any type of mine in Nunavut should be ready for a rude awakening.

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    • Posted by Tit for Tat on

      Investments come with Investments. Expect the GN to be the sole house if Inuit if other Non-Inuit corporations aren’t allowed to invest in this territory.

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  6. Posted by There are enough mines already on

    Aren’t there enough jobs in the mining sector today and they are being occupied by non-residents who don’t spend a penny in Nunavut. They fly home to the south every two weeks and get the perks. Should pace this sector on hold while the current mines train local residents for the upper level jobs so the money stays in Nunavut for once. The majority of the so called jobs they claim to say matter are for non-residents.

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    • Posted by Igunaaqi on

      Do you not realize every mining employee in Nunavut whether they are southerners or not.. they all pay Nunavut taxes just to work in the territory? Clearly you do not understand how the tax system works in the Territory, that is why the GDP is so high from the mining industries. Plus there is not enough qualified Inuit to run a mine, the companies need to look elsewhere for qualified employees and pay Nunavut Taxes so you can have food on your tables.

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      • Posted by Actually you should study a bit more on

        These non-residents pay their taxes to their place of residence so you appear to be a bit naive by saying they pay taxes to Nunavut. They pay 2% of their payroll to Nunavut as opposed to the Nunavut residents who pay their taxes to Nunavut and spend locally. So will be nice when the Nunavut Government realizes it makes sense to pace development to train and develop the expertise.

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    • Posted by Observer on

      Given that mines are largely driven by international economics, how do you suggest Nunavut control the entire world economy so that mines can happen when Nunavummiut would prefer them to happen?

  7. Posted by Wildlife lol on

    The single greatest threat to wildlife that will never be mentioned in consults and reports is the Inuit population boom. You cannot triple a population size in 20 years and expect the wildlife population to sustain it. Yet not one of these Co management boards talks about sex ed and other tools to reduce population growth.

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    • Posted by Huh what the heck are you on on

      Are you asking Inuit to die off like an extinct species and not be allowed to grow and be productive members of society? The animals have always been treated with respect by Inuit. They have taken what they needed and allow the rest to grow. The habitat of the species the Inuit hunt is more endanger with constant development so this needs to be regulated. The caribou on Baffin is an example of regulating the harvest for Inuit so no species becomes extinct. Will be nice when the habitat the caribou need to feed off to survive is regulated too from constant erosion from mining activity.

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      • Posted by Let me rephrase on

        More Inuit hunting means more animals harvested. More Inuit in history means more animals harvested than ever. No one said die off I said it is a big elephant in the room that animals are most in danger from Inuit population growth.

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      • Posted by Math is not your friend on

        In 1961, the area of what is now Nunavut had an Inuit population of about 5000 or so.

        In 2001, Nunavut had an Inuit population of 22,565.

        In 2021, Nunavut had an Inuit population of 30,865.

        How many caribou does it take to support a population SIX TIMES greater than it was 80 years–just four generations–ago?

        • Posted by Argh on

          Obviously that should have been 60 years ago, or just two and a half generations.

  8. Posted by tired of the bullsh!t on

    yup get ready to e taken advantage of by NIRB AND QIL as they only cant about themselves. they stopped representing the people and only stalling and waiting for big handouts from these corporations to line their own pockets. wake up people its time we make to things happen. we need to support these jobs but hold these companies accountable not restrict them so they do not want to do business in canada. pretty soon nobody wil be able to afford the annual taxes.

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