Second round of hearings for Nunavut gold mine rejected by review board kicks off

A proposed gold mine in Canada’s far north may finally get the approval from community members, as the company behind it is holding a second round of public hearings, in which it has vowed to address concerns that triggered its rejection by the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) last year.

Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.’s (TSX:SBB) Back River project, in the western Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut, has faced opposition from locals who claim industrial development on caribou populations grounds, should not be allowed.

This is the first time in 20 years the NIRB has been asked to reconsider a decision on a project and go through another review process.

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.

The four-day review that begins today marks the first time in 20 years the NIRB has been asked to reconsider a decision on a project and go through another review process. That happened in January, when the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs asked the board to reconsider its decision, after the Nunavut government and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association argued any threats to caribou could be managed.

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.

That is well east of the current spring calving grounds, but some Inuit argue the herd is known to have calved on the eastern side of Bathurst Inlet.

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 Vancouver-based Sabina says the mine could employ about 900 people once operations begin, which is expected to happen in 2019.

Second round of hearings for Nunavut gold mine rejected by review board kicks off

Sabina’s plans for Back River include a chain of open pit and underground mines located about 400 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay. (Image courtesy of Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.)