Husky Oil Operations has cancelled plans to drill for silica, a type of sand used during the process of fracking, near Behchoko, N.W.T., and other areas on the north shore of Great Slave Lake.

In a brief note today to the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review board — which was conducting an environmental assessment of the project — the company said it is withdrawing its application for the exploration-level project. The news comes just months after Husky confirmed it does not plan to explore for oil within the N.W.T.'s Sahtu region next year. 

Tom Hoefer, the executive director of the N.W.T. and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, said Husky's latest pull-out is "very serious."

"There's probably only a handful of companies exploring in the N.W.T. today compared to many more in the past," he said. 

The Tlicho Government, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, and North Slave Métis Alliance had expressed concern about Husky's silica project because they said Whitebeach Point, one of the target areas, is used by aboriginal and non-aboriginal people for recreation and harvesting activities.

The review board had been set to hold its first public hearing on the project in Behchoko on Thursday, followed by another hearing in Yellowknife next week.

Last night, at a public meeting in Yellowknife about the N.W.T. government's proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations, Paul Betsina, a Yellowknives Dene First Nation member, spoke out against Husky's plan.

"I don't care if you have to go to the moon to get [silica]," he said. "You're not getting it from here."

Before its project was referred to environmental assessment earlier this year, Husky had hoped to begin drilling this summer.