Nunavut board allowed mining exploration on Bathurst caribou calving grounds – by Sara Minogue (CBC News North – March 10, 2016)

2nd company allowed to proceed on breeding grounds against the advice of N.W.T. government

A second exploration company is making plans to work inside Nunavut’s caribou calving grounds — this time on the range of the dwindling Bathurst herd. And once again, it happened with the approval of the Nunavut Impact Review Board, and against the advice of the N.W.T. government.

Last spring Tundra Copper sought, and received, permission to search for copper on the Bluenose East calving grounds. Many in the N.W.T. only learned about it last week during hearings that will see several First Nations communities divide a drastically reduced harvest.

Also last spring, Crystal Explorations sought permission from the board for a multi-year diamond drilling exploration program at its Muskox Diamond project. The company holds several prospecting permits in western Nunavut, mostly clustered near the shuttered Lupin and Jericho mines near the Nunavut/ N.W.T. border.

But one permit, and the proposed James River Camp, juts into the Bathurst caribou calving grounds.

Herd in decline, harvest bans in N.W.T.

The approval came just as hunters in the N.W.T. were learning that the herd could be down to as few as 16,000 animals — a decline of 96 per cent since 1986.

Like the Bluenose East, the Bathurst caribou move seasonally between their calving grounds in Nunavut and their winter range in the N.W.T.

Aboriginal hunters in the N.W.T. have faced hunting restrictions on the herd since 2010. Hearings are underway that are likely to see the hunting ban extended to 2019.

In reviewing the Muskox Diamond project last summer, the N.W.T. government advised the Nunavut Impact Review Board not to allow work at the company’s James River Camp to go ahead, citing the “difficult harvest management actions… creating hardships in communities that rely on this herd as a subsistence and cultural resource.”

But the board approved it anyway.

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