Nunavut’s Dolphin and Union caribou herd deemed endangered – John Thompson (Nunatsiaq News – December 7, 2017)

A national committee of wildlife scientists now considers Nunavut’s Dolphin and Union caribou herd to be an endangered species. These stocky, large-hoofed animals spend their summers on Victoria Island and overwinter on the North American mainland. Their twice-a-year migrations across the sea ice of the Coronation Gulf have become increasingly perilous in recent years, as climate change causes the ice to freeze up later in the fall and to thaw earlier in the spring.

The growing use of icebreaking in the area is also being flagged as a major concern by scientists. The herd migrates across one of the routes of the Northwest Passage, which is seeing a growing number of transits.

And the herd roams not far from the proposed Grays Bay port and road that’s being aggressively pushed by the Government of Nunavut as a means of jump-starting mining projects in the region.

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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.

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Hunters still oppose winter sealift and railway for Mary River mine near Pond Inlet, Nunavut – by Sara Frizzell (CBC News North – October 11, 2017)

For several years, Baffinland Iron Mines has been trying to get permission for a railway and an extended shipping season for its Mary River mine — it’s still trying and hunters in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, are still opposed.

The mining company’s most recent proposal to the Nunavut Planning Commission was closed for public comments at the beginning of October and respondents are still wary of both elements of the revised plan.

In this iteration, Baffinland is looking for approval to build an 110-kilometre railway along the existing roadway, which connects the mine site to the Milne Inlet port site. It was also looking to extend the shipping season through to February by icebreaking.

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Resource firms face tougher rules if provincial action on threatened caribou deemed lacking – by Shawn McCarthy (Globe and Mail – October 10, 2017)

The federal government is warning it will impose tougher rules for resource companies working in the boreal forest unless provinces act to protect endangered caribou.

Companies involved in oil and gas, mining and forestry are facing a call from scientists and environmental groups that many threatened boreal caribou herds face extinction unless urgent action is taken to protect and restore habitat.

Industry officials, for their part, warn that regulatory uncertainty and the potential for restrictive regulations is jeopardizing investment and threatening the significant job losses in Northern and rural communities.

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Species at Risk policy fires up Northern leaders: Municipalities, industry, First Nations fear habitat protection rules could devastate forestry – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – October 4, 2017)

Queen’s Park can expect fierce resistance from Northerners if the province attempts to finalize controversial Species at Risk policy without proper consultation, said Kenora’s mayor.

“If they want to rush it through, they’re going to have a backlash like they’ve never seen before,” said Dave Canfield, past president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA). “There’s going to be a lot of us standing shoulder-to-shoulder.”

At issue are the new Species at Risk rules, designed to protect 28 species in Northern Ontario, which will be woven into the fabric of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA has raised the hackles of Northern leaders since it was passed in 2007.

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Plan may spur ‘environmental fragmentation’: conservationist – by Emily Blake (Whitehorse Daily Star – September 11, 2017)

Some environmental groups are expressing concerns about the Yukon Resource Gateway Project

Some environmental groups are expressing concerns about the Yukon Resource Gateway Project following a commitment of more than $360 million in federal and territorial funding. The project will see improved road access in the Dawson Range, located between Carmacks and Dawson City, and the Nahanni Range Road in southeast Yukon, both mineral-rich areas in the territory.

And while members of the mining industry and government are applauding the funding announcement, there are concerns about the lack of information on environmental impacts. “We’re not supportive of these projects until we get more information,” Lewis Rifkind, a mining analyst with the Yukon Conservation Society, told the Star last week.

“We’re opening up vast swaths of the Yukon to environmental fragmentation.” He worries about how the infrastructure project might affect woodland caribou. He said an extreme example of this is logging and oil and gas roads in Alberta, where the woodland caribou population has been reduced to around 7,000.

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Heading into public hearing, Nunavut, Agnico Eagle disagree over caribou – by Jane George (Nunatsiaq News – September 5, 2017)

Final NIRB hearing into Whale Tail gold mine project starts Sept. 19 in Baker Lake

Parties planning to attend the upcoming public session on Agnico Eagle Ltd.‘s Whale Tail gold mine project near Baker Lake have plenty to read and think about between now and the public hearing set for between Sept. 19 and Sept. 22 in Baker Lake before the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

That’s because the mining company submitted a 208-page document to the NIRB Aug. 28, responding to multiple opinions expressed by stakeholders. This document contains detailed responses to comments that the NIRB received from such groups as the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization, Inuit organizations and the Government of Nunavut about Agnico Eagle’s Whale Tail project.

Despite the heavy use of acronyms and diplomatic jargon like “values” and “appreciates” in the document, it’s likely that big, unresolved issues around caribou will be among topics discussed in Baker Lake. Much of the discussion on caribou in Agnico Eagle’s response is heavily technical.

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Worries mount over what busy mining road in Nunavut could mean for caribou migration – by Sara Frizzell (CBC News North – August 29, 2017)

A vehicle could travel every 6 minutes from the Whale Tail pit project to the Meadowbank mine

Agnico Eagle’s proposed expansion of operations near its Meadowbank gold mine near Baker Lake, Nunavut, is facing opposition. The Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA), the Government of Nunavut and the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization have all expressed concern over how a roadway connecting a new open pit mine to processing facilities at Meadowbank will affect caribou migration.

Their concerns appeared in their final written submissions to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, submitted in advance of the final public hearing on the project, which begins on Sept.19 in Baker Lake. Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. had an Aug. 28 deadline to submit its written response to concerns before the hearing.

The new mining operation — the Whale Tail pit — is about 50 kilometres northwest of Meadowbank. It would operate as an open pit mine for between three and four years, and requires a road connecting it to milling facilities at Meadowbank. Agnico Eagle expects mining could begin as early as 2019.

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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.

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Caribou again dominate Western Nunavut gold mine project review – by Jane George (Nunatsiaq News – June 8, 2017)

Sabina Gold and Silver Corp. pitched its gold mine project again last week in Cambridge Bay with a 72-page exhaustive new plan to mitigate, manage and monitor any impacts to the three caribou herds and other wildlife near its proposed Back River gold mine in western Nunavut.

This was the second round of environmental hearings on Sabina’s Back River project in Cambridge Bay. The first, which took place in 2016, resulted in a negative recommendation from the Nunavut Impact Review Board—and, with the additional mitigation, management and monitoring efforts, Sabina says it’s even, “more confident that there will be no impacts on caribou herds.”

Sabina’s plans for Back River include a chain of open pit and underground mines at its Goose property, located 400 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay and 520 km north of Yellowknife. The pits would operate for at least 10 years and involve filling, damming or draining lakes and streams, and building a 157-km road from the mine to a seasonal port facility and tank farm in Bathurst Inlet.

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‘State-of-the-art’ caribou protection plans draw broad support for Sabina gold mine – by Sara Minogue (CBC News North – June 05, 2017)

Warm feelings for Back River gold project at round 2 of final hearings in Cambridge Bay

An unprecedented second set of final hearings into a proposed gold mine in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region ended with broad consensus that the Back River project could provide jobs and opportunity — without harming already vulnerable caribou herds.

“I will be returning to my community with very good news,” said Shin Shiga, who travelled to the hearings in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, to represent the N.W.T.’s North Slave Métis Alliance. He arrived wary about the risks the project posed to caribou, and left confident in what he called a “very progressive project.”

Vancouver-based Sabina Gold and Silver wants to build an open-pit and underground gold mine about 150 kilometres south of Bathurst Inlet. The Nunavut Impact Review Board initially rejected its plans after hearings in 2016 left open questions about caribou and climate change.

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Charity files suit against Environment Minister over lack of reports on endangered caribou – by Gloria Galloway (Globe and Mail – April 20, 2017)

OTTAWA — A national charity created to safeguard Canada’s lands and water is taking the federal Environment Minister to court for allegedly failing in her responsibility to monitor the protection of the endangered boreal woodland caribou.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is asking the Federal Court to find that Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is acting illegally by ignoring the section of the Species At Risk Act that requires her department to report regularly on the condition of the caribou’s habitat.

According to the Act, once a critical habitat for a species has been identified, the federal Environment Minister has 180 days to determine whether any portion of that habitat anywhere in Canada remains unprotected. The Minister must then report every six months on what steps are being taken to protect that habitat until full protection has been achieved.

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NEWS RELEASE: Sabina Gold & Silver Reports Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Deems Nunavut Impact Review Board Report Deficient, Refers Back to NIRB for Further Review

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwired – Jan. 13, 2017) – Sabina Gold & Silver Corp. (TSX:SBB), (“Sabina” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce that the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (“INAC”), with the agreement of other responsible ministers, has decided that the Back River Project (“Back River” or the “Project”) should be returned to the Nunavut Impact Review Board (“NIRB”) for further consideration under Section 12.5.7 (e) of the Nunavut Agreement.

On June 15, 2016, the NIRB recommended to the Minister of INAC that the Back River Project not proceed to the next phase of permitting at this time. Since that time, the Minister of INAC and the other responsible ministers have been considering the NIRB Report.

In her letter of January 12, 2017 to the NIRB, the Minister of INAC stated “After careful consideration…we are referring the Report back to the Board for further review or public hearings as the Report is deficient with respect to some ecosystemic issues.

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Nunavut hunters pleased but not surprised that feds rejected Areva’s uranium mine – by Sima Sahar Zerehi (CBC News North – July 27, 2016)

Feds said no to Areva’s Kiggavik uranium mine, backing Nunavut Impact Review Board

The Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization says it’s pleased but not surprised by the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs’s decision to back the Nunavut Impact Review Board and reject Areva’s Kiggavik uranium mine. “We are pleased with the minister’s decision but not surprised,” said Joan Scottie, the HTO’s manager on behalf of chair Jamie Seekeenak.

The review board’s final report on the proposed mine near Baker Lake in the spring of 2015 rejected Areva Resources proposed Kiggavik mine on grounds that it lacks a definite start date and a development schedule. The board concluded that without this information it was impossible to assess the environmental and social impacts of the mine.

In her July 14 letter, Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, echoed the decision made by the review board.

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NEWS RELEASE: Caribou and Development Can Co-exist with Appropriate Mitigations

(Iqaluit, Nunavut – June 27, 2016) The NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines (the “Chamber”) is committed to provide the perspective of the exploration and mining industry to stakeholders and planning partners during the Nunavut Planning Commission’s land use planning process. The latest Draft Nunavut Land Use Plan was released on June 23, 2016.

“Despite what the Nunavut Planning Commission implies, no definitive link has been established between the current decline in caribou populations across the North and exploration or mining,” says Gary Vivian, President of the Chamber. “What has been presented in the latest version of the Nunavut Land Use Plan depicts questionable protection measures on top of questionable boundaries.”

The Chamber agrees with the Government of Nunavut’s position that, with effective mitigation measures and monitoring programs, mineral exploration and development activities can coexist with sustainable development in caribou calving grounds and access corridors.

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