Western Nunavut seeks jobs, wildlife protection at Sabina
NIRB consultation draws questions about jobs, impact on the land
People who live in Nunavut’s western Kitikmeot region want more jobs to open up in their communities with the Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.’s Back River mining project, said a report on public consultations conducted earlier this year by the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
But concerns about the project’s potential impacts on wildlife and the environment also appeared often in the consultation report, released Aug. 7.
NIRB staff dropped in on five Kitikmeot communities for single-day “open house” and public information sessions, March 24 to March 28, to collect residents’ concerns about proposed gold mining project, located about 75 kilometres southwest of Bathurst Inlet.
If it starts producing, the Kitikmeot mine, about 400 km south of Cambridge Bay, is expected to process 5,000 tonnes of material per day and produce about 300,000 ounces of gold per year for up to 10 years.
“I want to see what type of plans they have to train Inuit and for Inuit employment,” reads a comment from Kugluktuk. “A lot of times we have corporations operating mines, promising lots of employment, then they come back and say, ‘I’m sorry you do not have the skills.’”
“Perhaps Sabina can look for more training purposes for people in the community who have skills,” reads another comment from Gjoa Haven. “There are many people who (may) not have training, but they can gain knowledge through experience, especially young men and women who are capable of doing a good job.”
Some participants also talked about language barriers for non-English speakers.
“I have a concern, not to be negative, but a lot of elders are unilingual. We need interpreters. I can’t interpret for you,” says a comment from Cambridge Bay.
The need for sustained employment — necessary to keep residents working, and keep trained and qualified workers in the communities — also echoed throughout the recorded comments. A new mine in the Kitikmeot, once operational, would help fill that need.
“We need at least one or two operating mines in the Kitikmeot region, in order to keep the people working and gain the benefit from employment,” reads another comment from Kugluktuk.
Hiring priorities were also questioned. Some Cambridge Bay residents claimed that job training does not guarantee a job at a mine.
“All across Nunavut and Northwest Territories they are sending people from the South to do the jobs we are trained to do,” says a Cambridge Bay comment.
Residents also questioned Sabina’s proposed lifespan — estimated at 10 to 18 years of operation.
Ten years “is not long enough,” a Cambridge Bay resident said at the meeting. “It’s just a waste of beautiful land, from the way it is right now, it’s just going to be torn apart.
“It’s good income for 10 years but after that, then what? Where am I going to go? Retire?”
Concerns about the environment centred around impacts on wildlife — particularly caribou, muskox and fish. Caribou migration paths could be affected by “areas of dust and road development, railway, or moving on the land,” a Kugaaruk participant told the board.
Concerns about effects on fish revolved around pollution of waterways, and the possibility of fuel spills.
A lack of clarity about NIRB’s role and the value and effect of residents’ opinions also came up in Kugluktuk.
In Cambridge Bay, similar questions centred around the need for information in Inuinnaqtun, and the need for more opinions from elders in the community.
If it becomes operational, the Bathurst Inlet landing sport for shipped goods, or “marine laydown area” would be used for annual sealifts during open water season and would have a fuel storage tank farm to receive tanker shipments of fuel to be delivered to the mines over a winter road.
In a letter to the NIRB in July 2013, Sabina says it prefers this simpler marine docking area to the once highly-toutedBathurst Inlet port and road (known by the acronym BIPAR or BIPR.)
The on-again, off-again BIPAR scheme was heavily promoted for many years by a group of private Inuit companies associated with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and the Nunasi Corp.
But after it was clear that BIPAR was going nowhere, it’s Inuit proponents sold the project to Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.and Xstrata Zinc Canada in 2012.
Now called “BIPR,” it’s been mostly folded into a transportation plan for Sabina’s Back River project.
The Back River proposal would include six open-pit mining areas within the Goose and George properties with one underground mine at Goose.
The company submitted its draft environmental impact assessment in January 2014.