Nunavut proposed gold mine needs more study, Ottawa says

Canada’s government is not ready to reject a proposed gold mine in Nunavut's Kitikmeot region, saying it’s "premature" to assume it would have unmanageable effects, such as damaging the region’s shrinking caribou herds.

Ottawa’s response came more than six months after the Nunavut Impact Review Board rejected Sabina Gold & Silver’s (TSX:SBB) Back River project, planned for 95 km. southeast of Bathurst Inlet.

Sabina Gold & Silver’s plans for Back River include open pit and underground mines at its Goose property, located 400 km south of Cambridge Bay and 520 km north of Yellowknife.

"While the report is being referred back to the board (…) we encourage the board to take the opportunity for further review or hearings," Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett wrote in a Jan. 12 letter to the review board.

Supporters of the mine argue Nunavut could use a new source of jobs and income. The territory holds Canada's highest unemployment rate at 12.3% as well as the associated social problems. It also has the country’s highest birthrate and needs jobs for young people.

Opponents claim industrial development on sensitive calving grounds, which are considered both crucial to herd health and particularly susceptible to disturbance, should not be allowed.

Sabina’s plans for Back River include 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 their development would 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.

The asset holds an estimated 3.4 million ounces of gold and Sabina says the mine could employ about 900 people.