Regulators need more clarity on ordering safeguards for mining projects, lawyers say (CBC News North – November 14, 2017)

Two lawyers are calling on the Northwest Territories to set clearer rules for how regulators can compel companies to include environmental safeguards in development projects.

John Donihee and Charles Birchall are presenting at the Yellowknife Geoscience Forum this week on a concept they hope is included in any new changes to the territory’s environmental legislation.

It’s called the precautionary principle. The legal concept suggests regulators and governments be cautious and include environmental protections on projects that could harm the environment — even if it isn’t scientifically proven that the project will do any harm.

“Even [if] we don’t know exactly how [a project] would affect the environment, we should still take steps in order to mitigate that,” Donihee explained. A recent Nunavut Impact Review Board decision to approve a gold mine project from Sabina Gold and Silver Corporation is an example of this in action, he said.

In issuing the permit, the review board set 90 terms and conditions Sabina must follow to protect caribou herds. The proposed open-pit and underground mine would be on the eastern fringe of the Bathurst caribou range and in the midst of the Beverly/Ahiak herd.

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