Canada - Government board rules against Arctic uranium mine

Date of publication: 
10 May 2015

A $2.1 billion proposal to build a uranium mine in the Canadian far north will not be proceeding anytime soon.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board, which was evaluating public hearings about the proposed mine in the Nunavut territory, has recommended against the project at this time, though not indefinitely. “[S]ince Areva’s Kiggavik project lacks a definite start date or development schedule, its environmental and social impacts cannot be properly assessed,” CBC News reported on Friday.

The decision appears to have been based on statements from Areva, the French nuclear giant, which acknowledged that with uranium prices being so low, it could be up to two decades before construction actually begins. However the Nunavut Impact Review Board opened the door to another evaluation if and when a start date becomes more firm.

“The board does not intend that this project not proceed at any time. The board intends that the Kiggavik Project may be resubmitted for consideration at such future time when increased certainty regarding the project start date can be provided,” Review Board chair Elizabeth Copland stated in a letter Friday to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt.

Areva has a 64.8 percent interest in the deposit, located just west of Baker Lake; in 2014 the company filed the final Environmental Impact Statement with the Nunavut Environmental Review Board.

If approved, the $2.1 billion project would include an underground mine and four open pits. At least 400 jobs would be provided, many reserved for local Inuit, with an annual payroll of $200 million for at least 17 years, according to CTV News.

However the mine has also seen opposition from environmentalists and local First Nations who say the Kiggavik project impinges on important caribou calving grounds.

Two years ago Areva Resources Canada – a subsidiary of its French parent – resumed test drilling at Kiggavik, and opened a winter road to move fuel and other supplies to the site.