Resurrected version of Nunavut port-road scheme gets mixed reviews
Sabina and Xstrata dust off BIPAR's old draft environmental impact statement
The Nunavut Impact Review Board wants to know whether a five-year-old draft environmental impact statement for a huge port and road project in Nunavut’s western Kitikmeot region can be revised and used in support of a new, expanded project proposal.
But, judging from the comments on the current project proposal, which Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.and Xstrata Zinc Canada submitted to the Nunavut regulator last December, opinion is divided on whether the proposed Bathurst port and road project (called BIPAR or BIPR) needs a completely new draft environmental statement.
The Kitikmeot Inuit Association, which represents the interests of Inuit in the region, said “the proposed changes do not significantly change the scope of the original BIPR proposal” from 2004 — as did other respondents, including the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
But some respondents to the NIRB, such as the North Slave Metis Alliance and the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, want to see a new broader project proposal, with a new draft EIS that would contain updated, higher quality data.
Several comments concerned the project’s impact on marine life and caribou.
“Simply updating the BIPR draft EIS by appending recent baseline data will be insufficient given the increase in public concerns for caribou. The current availability of analytical techniques for cumulative effects assessment, monitoring and mitigation means that re-analysis for BIPR is required,” said Anne Gunn, a former territorial wildlife biologist who now lives in British Columbia.
Sabina says it’s looking, along with Xstrata, at building a deep water port at Bathurst Inlet (about 70 kilometres to the north of Sabina’s Back River project) and an all-weather road connecting the port to existing ice roads that serve the Ekati and Diavik mines from Yellowknife.
The port facility, 35 km to the south of the tiny community of Bathurst Inlet, would include a dock, 18 large fuel storage tanks, the 211-km road to Contwoyto Lake, a 1,200-metre airstrip and two camps for about 200 workers.
Its cost was estimated at $270 million several years ago, when the project’s first proponents, the Kitikmeot Corp. and Nuna Logistics, unsuccessfully sought federal money to kick-start the port and road complex as a way of encouraging economic development in western Nunavut.
In 2008, they ended up shelving the project.
But now the two mining companies, which acquired the project last year, want to see a marine port in Bathurst Inlet with a wharf to serve 50,000-tonne ice class vessels, a dock to handle barges serving Kitikmeot communities, and at the port: a 180-million litre fuel oil tank farm and a 150-person camp.
Their new project proposal also calls for more marine traffic, including shipments into the Coronation Gulf, and year-round use of the road south.
Xstrata’s Hackett River project would produce 250,000 tonnes of zinc per year, over 15 years, provide 800 jobs during construction and 500 when operating, with the zinc shipped out through the Northwest Passage, past Resolute and down the west coast of Baffin Island.
Sabina’s Back River, which would take two years to build, operate for 10 to 15 years and then take five years to close down, would hire 1,600 workers during the construction phase and 900 during the mine’s operations.The project, which would produce 300,000 to 400,000 ounces of gold a year, would also include open-pit and underground mines.
As the project moves into review, the Government of Nunavut said it wants a new EIS to account for the impact of the two mining projects — something that the GN says could be difficult because BIPAR and the two mining projects would have separate reviews under the NIRB.