Nunavut hunters pleased but not surprised that feds rejected Areva's uranium mine

CBC News

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

By Sima Sahar Zerehi, CBC News Posted: Jul 27, 2016 4:00 AM CT Last Updated: Jul 27, 2016 4:00 AM CT

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.

"There were serious problems with what Areva was proposing, we recognized it, the Nunavut Impact Review Board recognized it, it only makes sense for the government to recognize it as well," said Scottie.

The hunters and trappers group had participated in the review for the uranium project since it began in 2009 and said that Areva did not convince them or the community representatives from Baker Lake that the mine would benefit them.

A lesson for other mining companies

MiningWatch says the rejection of Areva's Kiggavik uranium mine should serve as a lesson for other mining companies.

Ugo Lapointe

MiningWatch Canada's Ugo Lapointe. (MiningWatch Canada)

"It's an important lesson for everyone in the North and I would say even in Canada that when proponents propose development projects they should be clear about project's start date and objectives," said Ugo Lapointe, the Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada.

The lack of a definite start date made it impossible to assess the environmental impacts of the uranium project said Lapointe.

"The caribou herd could be in a very difficult situation in 10 or 15 years, so how can you assess the impacts of a project if you don't have a time frame for it?" said Lapointe.

Lapointe added that overall his organization believes that uranium should not be mined.

"There's still a lot of uncertainties with the long term management of the mine waste which are radioactive and current technology does not guarantee safety in the long term," said Lapointe.

Confidence in the process

Ryan Barry, the review board's executive director, said he hopes the decision instills confidence in the process.

"I would hope that the public feels that the process is working and that concern about projects and support for projects can be heard and considered in a fair and transparent manner," he said. 

Barry added that the review board continues to have a very good working relationship with federal counterparts.

Areva now has the option to modify their project and submit a new proposal to the Nunavut Planning Commission, restarting the review process.