“Will the caribou be safe? Will it be safe to eat?” Too many unaddressed community concerns persist for many Kivalliq residents, and others, to support Areva Resources Canada’s proposed uranium mine near Baker Lake.
That came across loud and clear from a number of organizations who submitted comments and recommendations on Areva’s final environmental impact assessment of the proposed Kivalliq project to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
How Nunavut’s first uranium mine might affect nearby caribou herds, the absence of a project timeline, and the likelihood that this project would lead to other uranium mining and exploration in the area top the list of unaswered questions.
“In a nutshell, our concern is that there are uncertainties that have not been addressed in the final statement, that we have raised,” said Ross Thompson, executive director of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board, in an interview Jan. 22.
The NIRB received comments and recommendations on Kiggavik from the caribou management board, along with 15 other local, territorial and federal agencies, as well as from a Baker Lake land claim beneficiary.
Areva’s mining proposal, first submitted in 2008, includes two properties roughly 80 kilometres west of Baker Lake.
The project, located on post-calving caribou grounds, would consist of five pits and a mill, connected by a 20-km road. Areva also wants to build an airstrip to transport uranium as yellowcake for processing in Saskatchewan.
The management board wants Areva to take a careful, precautionary approach to the project, Thompson said, because of numerous variables that could impact caribou.
Those variables include not just the direct impact of uranium mining on caribou and their calves in the area, but also how industrial activity could impact their migration routes, nearby vegetation and the dust stirred up by transportation to and within the mine.
“Our position is that no development or exploration should be allowed on calving or post-calving areas, and post-calving areas is the one that Areva is proposing to develop,” Thompson said.
“If all these uncertainties can’t be addressed, and the precautionary principle cannot be brought forward, then the project should not proceed.”
Thompson said potential radioactive dust near the project worries caribou hunters and their families.
“Will the caribou be safe? Will it be safe to eat? What can replace the caribou if all the impacts of these different variables are so severe that the caribou aren’t available?” Thompson asked.
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