Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 01, 2015 - 3:08 pm

No exceptions, Nunavut review board tells Sabina

Mining firm wanted early stage work exempted from environmental review

Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.'s Back River gold mine project is located in western Nunavut, about 400 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay. (FILE PHOTO)
Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.'s Back River gold mine project is located in western Nunavut, about 400 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay. (FILE PHOTO)

The Nunavut Impact Review Board has rejected a request from Sabina Gold and Silver Corp. to exempt some early development work from the environmental review of Sabina’s Back River gold project.

The review board, armed with comments from some stakeholders, said that’s because the company didn’t provide enough information to allow the board to judge the environmental impact of the activities that Sabina wants exceptions for.

Sabina is proposing a gold operation on seven properties about 400 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay, south of Bathurst Inlet, that would produce 300,000 to 400,000 ounces of gold per year, possibly starting in 2017.

It also included a rejigged version of the Bathurst Inlet port-road project, now know by the acronym “BIPR.”

The review board accepted the company’s draft environmental impact statement in January 2014.

But they also noticed that the company asked that certain pre-development and site preparation activities be excepted from the environmental review.

And in October 2014, Sabina filed a formal request to have those activities excepted from the review.

Those activities include:

• an all-weather airstrip extension at the company’s Goose site;

• realignment of an outflow stream from Rascal Lake;

• a new quarry within an area called Umwelt that is slated for an open pit;

• a five-kilometre all-weather road and a six-kilometre ice road to the new quarry; and,

• a temporary laydown area for fuel and supplies at Bathurst Inlet:

The first four proposed activities involve the Goose site, and the last one involves Bathurst Inlet, where the company hopes to eventually establish a hub for a port and road system.

But stakeholders, like Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, said Sabina didn’t provide enough detail and didn’t provide any information about alternatives.

Another criticism, AAND said, was that many of the structures that Sabina proposed are really permanent, and not temporary.

The NIRB agreed with those comments.

“[T]he board, like several intervenors, did not find that the information supplied with the request established that the potential for impacts associated with the excepted activities are sufficiently understood to proceed without further assessment,” the NIRB decision said.

And the board also found the proposed pre-development activities could have “potentially significant ecosystemic and socio-economic impacts” including:

• impacts on the Bathurst, Beverly and Dolphin-Union caribou herds;

• potential impacts on water quality;

• potential socio-economic impacts.

The rejection of Sabina’s application means the proposed activities will now get full assessments within the environmental review that is now underway.

The company’s draft EIS was scrutinized at technical hearings this past November.

The company is now working on a final environmental impact statement, with public hearings that possibly could be held in the fall of 2015.

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