Canada mulls allowing China to pursue gargantuan metals project in the Arctic

The Harper government is considering a proposal from Chinese parties for a huge mining project in Canada's Nunavut territory which could bring billions of dollars to the remote Arctic region.

The Alaska Dispatch
reports that federal ministers are slated to review plans from China-owned miner MMG for a gigantic mining project in the Izok Corridor, situated southeast of Kugluktuk in the country's northernmost territory of Nunavut.

The project will be on an immense scale, comprised of five separate underground and open-pit mines encompassing a huge part of western Nunavut. MMG also has plans to construct three mines at High Lake, situated 300 kilometers to the northeast of Izok Lake.

If implemented the project is expected to produce 180,000 tonnes of zinc and 50,000 tonnes of copper per annum.

The project could also bring billions of dollars in investment to the region and will entail huge infrastructure spending in keeping with its size. MMG has requested permission to build a port capable of accommodating ships of up to 50,000 tonnes; two permanent camps with a total of 1,000 beds, airstrips, an all-weather road totaling 350-kilometers in length and 70 bridges extending from Izok Lake to the central Arctic coast.

Aboriginal groups and environmentalists have already expressed their misgivings, however, with over 400 separate parties lodging expressions of concern with the Nunavut Impact Review Board. Inuit groups in particular are concerned about the impact of the project on nearby caribou herds which are considered essential to local communities.

MMG is an Australia-based company which is headquartered in Melbourne and wholly owned by state-owned Chinese miner China Minmetals. The company was established in 2009 via the conversion of assets purchased from OZ Minerals by China Minmetals after the former found itself heavily indebted.

Concerns have also been raised in Canada about an foreign state-owned entity obtaining control of such a huge swath of Canada's resources. The issue is especially sensitive given controversies surrounding the recent $15 billion purchase of Canadian energy giant Nexen (NYSE:NXY) by China's CNOOC, which was the largest ever overseas acquisition by a Chinese company.