Hearings start Monday on new uranium mine in Canadian Arctic

Hearings starting on Monday for a new uranium mine in Canada's Nunavut territory are attracting opposition from environmentalists and local First Nations who say the Kiggavik project impinges on important caribou calving grounds.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board will evaluate submissions from the proponent, French nuclear group Areva SA (EPA:AREVA), and other stakeholders including groups opposed to the project such as anti-uranium group Makitagunarningit and the Kivalliq Wildlife Review Board.

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.

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.

The Canadian subsidiary is also hunting for uranium in the highly prospective Athabasca Basin in Saskatchewan, through its Midwest and Shea Creek properties. Last October, Areva started processing uranium ore at its McClean Lake mill, also in Saskatchewan.

The mill, located in northern Saskatchewan, has been undergoing modifications since 2010 to allow it to process ore from Cameco’s  (TSX:CCO), (NYSE: CCJ) $2.6 billion Cigar Lake mine, which is set to become one of the world’s biggest by 2018.

Mining at the much-delayed Cigar Lake began last March, but was suspended in July to allow the ore body to freeze more thoroughly.

The firm first expected to open Cigar Lake in 2007, but two floods pushed the launch of the mine well behind schedule.