Mining firm defends caribou monitoring plan against Nunavut critics – by Jane George (Nunatsiaq News – April 27, 2016)

“We don’t want to commit to something we can’t do”

CAMBRIDGE BAY — Participants at a Nunavut Impact Review Board hearing in Cambridge Bay hammered Sabina Gold and Silver Corp. for most of April 26 over how its proposed four-mine complex and 157-kilometre winter road can co-exist with two caribou herds that migrate through that area of western Nunavut.

The final regulatory hearing for the Back River gold mine, which got underway April 25, devoted nearly the entire day of April 26 to the company’s monitoring and mitigation plans for its Goose property, located 400 km south of Cambridge Bay and 520 km north of Yellowknife.

After presenting information about its many programs and actions designed to reduce impacts on caribou on April 25, Sabina fielded questions April 26 about its “adaptive management” plan for wildlife, which would see a staged response to mitigate damage to caribou from animals in the Beverly or Bathurst herds, which might be spotted close to the mine site by observers, cameras or via satellite collars.

These responses include actions such as stopping helicopter flights and blasting — but they do not include a complete shut-down of the proposed gold mine’s operations.

A total mine closure had been part of an early monitoring and mitigation plan, said Stephen Atkinson, the Government of Nunavut’s former director of wildlife and environmental protection, now a consultant, who wanted to know if that option is still planned.

But Matthew Pickard, the vice president of Sabina Gold and Silver Corp., said it’s not feasible to shut down all mining operations if calving or post-calving caribou show up on site.

“We don’t want to commit to something we can’t do,” Pickard said during the portion of the hearing that covered presentations from Sabina on the mine’s terrestrial impacts.

Sabina does have a staged plan to stop noise-making activities like blasting, Pickard said, adding that’s beyond what other northern mining companies do.

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