Keep mineral exploration away from calving grounds, caribou board says
"Mineral exploration on calving grounds is not appropriate"
The Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board is fuming over a Nunavut Impact Review Board decision to allow a mineral exploration project to take place in the heart of a caribou calving ground.
The board said Toronto-based Anconia Resources Corp.‘s Marce Project, located between Arviat and Baker Lake, will disrupt caribou when they carry out plans to explore for base metal ores on the site.
The caribou board wants the project halted immediately.
The Marce project was approved for exploration after NIRB’s screening process for the project on Inuit-owned land recommended this past March that the Kivalliq Inuit Association give it the go-ahead.
Another application made by Anconia, for exploration on the project’s Crown-owned lands, was also approved by the NIRB. But this portion still requires permission from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
This second application won’t have to undergo any screening process because it overlaps with the project on Inuit-owned lands.
But the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board wants to see a full review of the project, which is expected to start July 15.
That’s when the “area is likely to be occupied by an abundance of vulnerable caribou cows and calves seeking critical summer forage,” the board’s chair, Earl Evans, said in a June 12 news release.
The Qamanirjuaq caribou post-calving period near Victory Lake starts in late June and ends in late July, but the herd may use the area through summer until September.
“We need to repeat and emphasize our clear message to governments and regulators that mineral exploration on calving grounds is not appropriate,” said Evans.
“The BQCMB has to make sure that no more permits are issued for work on the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq caribou calving grounds, especially now, when it looks as if both herds may be in decline,” he said.
The caribou board wants to see another full review of the exploration project, saying the screening process was flawed because the concerns of the caribou board and the Arviat Hunters and Trappers Organization’s were apparently “disregarded.”
However, the NIRB does not plan to go through another screening process.
The NIRB’s executive director Ryan Barry denies ignoring the caribou board and the HTO’s concerns.
“No we certainly didn’t ignore them. When we get recommendations or comments, every submission is always taken into account,” Barry said. “Obviously we understand their concern that they don’t feel that we acted on their recommendations. Their recommendations were in fact to not let the project go ahead, or if we couldn’t do that, then recommend a full-scale environmental assessment. In either case, the board didn’t think it was appropriate.”
Usually full environmental assessments are reserved for larger scale projects, after exploration has wrapped up and a mining company plans to start operations.
“We’re talking about a project with one drill here. As mineral exploration goes, this is the lowest threshold that comes to NIRB,” Barry said.
For its part, Anconia vows to “respect all of the terms of the Caribou Protection Measures, as well as all the terms outlined in the Land Use Permit received from the KIA.”
Jason Brewster, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said Anconia will take every precaution to ensure a low environmental impact.
“The work is to consist of approximately 10 drill holes using 1 drill, and all holes will be capped and drill sites left in as close to undisturbed condition as possible when completed,” Brewster said. “Environmental disturbance, and personnel onsite will be kept to a minimum, and we are in fact using a pre-existing camp approximately 65 km away, and nothing besides a stacked core will be left onsite when we are done.”
Those caribou protection measures, however, are “ineffective,” the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board says, because they were designed “to address only exploration impacts on caribou, not impacts on habitat or development impacts.”
And “inadequate enforcement has also been an issue,” the board said in its news release.