No environmental review required for Arctic Fibre, Nunavut board decides
Industry Canada to oversee 52 terms and conditions
Arctic Fibre Inc.’s undersea cable proposal does not require an environmental hearing, the Nunavut Impact Review Board said in a screening decision issued Jan. 23.
At the same time, the NIRB — after screening the project for nearly three months — has imposed 52 terms and conditions. (See document embedded below.)
They’ve sent that list to the office of James Moore, the federal industry ministry. Industry Canada is the federal department that would be responsible for authorizing and regulating the company’s Europe to Asia cable.
Arctic Fibre proposes a high-speed undersea fibre optic cable system that would run through the Northwest Passage past Canada and Alaska to connect London and Tokyo.
The $620-million in private financing required to construct the project’s backbone would be paid down with revenues received from customers located mainly in Asian countries like Japan, China and South Korea.
At the same time, about 52 per cent of Nunavut’s population — people living in Iqaluit, Cape Dorset, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, and Taloyoak — would be connected automatically to the high-speed fibre optic cable, dramatically reducing their dependence on expensive satellite bandwidth.
One section of the backbone would run from a point near Cape Dorset past the east coast of Hudson Bay to Chisasibi. From that point, the fibre system would connect with New York City through Montreal.
To connect 23 non-backbone communities in Nunavut and Nunavik, Arctic Fibre proposes Industry Canada spend $230 million on a variety of spur lines and microwave hops.
However, Industry Canada has not yet responded to that idea and the non-backbone phase of the proposal is not covered in NIRB’s Jan. 23 screening decision.
And the NIRB decision only covers sections of undersea cable that would be laid inside the Nunavut settlement area, within the Qikiqtani and Kitikmeot regions.
Other authorities that must also look at the project include:
• the Inuvialuit environmental impact screening committee;
• the Nunavik Marine Region Impact Review Board;
• the Eeyou Marine Region Impact Review Board;
• the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (for Canadian waters outside the Nunavut settlement area.)
Section 12.4.4 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement gives NIRB the ability to recommend that a proposal be processed without an environmental review.
The terms and conditions listed in the review board’s Jan. 23 screening decision contain restrictions aimed at protecting water and wildlife.
There’s also a section covering land-based project activities, which will include a 31-km section across Boothia Peninsula that connects Taloyoak.