Planning org unveils final draft blueprint for Nunavut land use
Massive document bans mining within 15 per cent of Nunavut’s lands
After a lengthy period of consultation, study and drafting that began in the fall of 2007, the Nunavut Planning Commission unveiled the final version of its big blueprint for land management in the territory this past June 20 and June 21.
The proposed plan works something like a municipal zoning bylaw, setting out which pieces of land in Nunavut may be used for what purpose, including lands that would be protected from development and lands where development would be allowed.
The huge plan covers Nunavut’s two million square kilometres of territory, about one-third of the land mass of Canada, using simplified land use designations: Protected Areas, Special Management Areas and Mixed Use.
In doing so, the commission had to figure out where mining and other forms of industrial development should be banned, where it should occur under special conditions, and where it should proceed normally.
“Harmonizing competing interests has been achieved by acknowledging that economic development and wildlife in many cases can co-exist,” the commission’s acting chairperson, Percy Kabloona, said in a covering letter.
The Nunavut settlement area is divided up like this:
• 15 per cent of Nunavut is designated “Protected Area,” where development will not be allowed — this includes about 80 per cent of Nunavut’s core caribou calving and post-calving areas where there is little potential for mining. It also includes most existing and proposed national and territorial parks — but not the Thelon and Kazan river areas.
• 17 per cent of Nunavut is designated “Special Management Area” — this includes core caribou calving and post-calving areas where there is high mineral potential, as well as some migratory bird habitats, polar bear denning areas, walrus haul-out areas, community drinking water supplies and the Thelon and Kazan areas. In these stretches of land, mining and other developments would be allowed if the proponents follow certain special conditions.
• 67 per cent of Nunavut is designated “Mixed Use.” In these lands, all proposed uses are allowed, including mining, commercial fisheries, oil and gas, research, tourism, shipping, roads, quarries and hydro-electric projects.
All this means that about 84 per cent of Nunavut is open to mining, including the 67 per cent designated for “Mixed Use.”
The 15 per cent of Nunavut set aside as no-go areas for development include 80 per cent of the territory’s caribou calving and post-calving areas
But mineral exploration proponents would see their existing permits and licences grandfathered into the new land use plan, the NPC said in a background document.
The commission hopes to put its final draft Nunavut land use plan before a massive public hearing to start in Iqaluit on Nov. 24, 2014.
Last week, the commission believed Bernard Valcourt, the AAND minister, had refused to fund that public hearing.
Valcourt, however, has suggested the door is still open for the Iqaluit public hearing.
“The Nunavut Planning Commission only recently submitted a work plan and budget, on June 11 2014, for additional funding to conduct a public hearing. We will give this request due consideration,” Valcourt said June 18 in an email to Nunatsiaq News.
After the draft land use plan becomes final, the commission will submit it to Valcourt and to the Government of Nunavut for final approval.
When the federal and territorial cabinets endorse it, the final plan will become a binding legal, document, guiding land use in Nunavut for generations to come.
The plan may be amended in the future, and the federal minister has the power to grant exemptions to land use plan conformity decisions.
The NPC has come a long way since it imploded in 2005, following a governance scandal that saw the departures of its chair, executive director and many commissioners.
By the summer of 2006, following a highly critical review of the organization by the Aarluk consulting firm, the revived commission began its work anew, led by newly-hired executive director Sharon Ehaloak and interim chair Ron Roach.
By 2007, the NPC began work on a land use plan for Nunavut, leading to the release of its first draft land use plan on Sept. 7, 2012.
The commission updated that plan following a lengthy consultation period with communities, Inuit organizations, governments, and aboriginal groups and governments, outside Nunavut.