Game changer: NIRB now says yes to Nunavut’s Back River mine – by Lisa Gregoire (Nunatsiaq News – July 19, 2017)

“Sabina’s revised plans now constitute some of the most protective caribou protection measures ever developed for the Arctic”

It turns out that now is a good time to go ahead with Sabina’s Back River gold mine project. After saying “no” to the multi-million dollar Kitikmeot project in June 2016, and being told by a federal minister that “no” was the wrong answer, the Nunavut Impact Review Board “has concluded that the Back River Gold Mine Project Proposal may proceed at this time.”

However, the NIRB says this was not a foregone conclusion.

“For those who may have expressed concern that the Board’s further consideration of the Project would be a ’rubber stamp’ only, and would not lead to any substantive improvements to the Project, the Board notes that the further consideration was conducted with the same care and thoroughness as the original assessment,” the NIRB said in a July 18 news release.

In a statement released by the company July 18, Sabina said it was “extremely pleased” with the NIRB’s positive recommendation.

“We are moving ever closer to our goal of becoming a mid-tier gold producer in one of the word’s best mining jurisdictions,” Sabina President and CEO Bruce McLeod said in the release.

Sabina must now await approval of the final report from Carolyn Bennett, minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, and then a project certificate from the NIRB.

In the meantime, Sabina plans to submit water licence applications to the Nunavut Water Board to get the project rolling, their news release said.

The NIRB’s green light comes with 94 terms and conditions that the board hopes will ensure the mine “is developed, operated and reclaimed in a manner that would not unduly and adversely impact the ecosystemic integrity of the Nunavut Settlement Area.”

Those terms and conditions mostly address five key areas raised by Bennett in her January letter to the NIRB which scuttled the board’s original 347-page final hearing report and directed them to conduct a more robust review.

Those five areas include caribou and terrestrial wildlife along with freshwater and marine environments.

“The Board notes that Sabina’s revised plans now constitute some of the most protective caribou protection measures ever developed for the Arctic,” the NIRB says in its news release.

Part of those measures include preparing for the “possibility” of the project overlapping with caribou calving grounds even though the project, as currently proposed, does not overlap.

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