by Greg Klein | July 7, 2015
Last May the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended a federal minister reject the proposed Kiggavik uranium mine. Now the project’s backers want the minister to reject the board’s recommendation, saying the NIRB overstepped its mandate.
Located near the territory’s southeastern hamlet of Baker Lake, Kiggavik is a joint venture of AREVA Resources Canada (64.8%), JCU (Canada) Exploration (33.5%) and DAEWOO Corp (1.7%). In their application for an environmental permit, the proponents declined to provide a definite start date, citing low uranium prices. That omission comprised the NIRB’s chief concern.
“We do not want this proposal approved but still hanging over our heads for decades to come, not knowing what the future of our community will be,” the report quoted the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization. The NIRB invited the proponents to resubmit an application once a date has been chosen.
While estimated start dates are helpful, they’re not necessary, argued Vincent Martin, president/CEO of the AREVA subsidiary. Moreover the NIRB’s rationale “expanded their oversight beyond the intent of EA [environmental assessment].”
Martin’s July 3 letter to Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt pointed out other mine proposals that were passed without start dates, Nunavut’s Hope Bay gold project and Western Australia’s Kintyre uranium project.
Despite uranium market uncertainty, Kiggavik’s backers “continued with the EA process as a prudent step to enable a positive development decision when favourable market conditions return,” Martin’s letter maintained.
He added that the application provided remedies to address the uncertain start date but it’s not clear whether the NIRB considered them.
Martin called on Valcourt to reject the NIRB’s report and refer it back to the board “to consider the inclusion of appropriate terms and conditions that should be attached to a project approval.”
Failing that, Valcourt should label the report deficient and have the board address a number of omissions and other faults, Martin contended.
A July 7 AREVA press release added, “If the minister rejects the recommendation and approval is received, the Kiggavik project will be more likely to receive approval from shareholders to proceed to development when market conditions are favourable.”
“Ultimately, we are not the decision-makers but we are asserting that the environmental assessment for the Kiggavik project is sound and the approval should therefore be provided.”
The July 7 Nunatsiaq News reported that “AREVA isn’t the only company appealing to Ottawa to reject a made-in-Nunavut decision. Baffinland Iron Mines has also approached Valcourt to overturn the Nunavut Planning Commission’s land use plan ruling, so it can send its expanding shipping project straight to the NIRB instead.”