Sabina Gold and Silver announced Wednesday it had received approval from Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, to build a gold mine approximately 400 kilometres southwest of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

The minister's decision follows approval of the Back River gold mine project from the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) in July, after previously rejecting the project in 2016.

"The government of Nunavut and the Inuit associations have acknowledged for some time that resource development is an important part of their potential future, so they are always cautious about industrial development, including mining, but at the same time they're very supportive," said Matthew Pickard, Sabina's vice president of environment and sustainability.

"They work through the challenges and they take their time to figure out the best way."

Matthew Pickard

Matthew Pickard is Sabina's vice president of environment and sustainability. (Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.)

On Dec. 14, the government of Nunavut, the federal government, and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association will discuss the draft project certificate issued last July. The Nunavut Impact Review Board is expected to agree on a final project certificate by early January. 

Sabina and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association recently agreed on the terms that will eventually define the project's Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement.

The association will receive royalties from the mine, as well as three per cent of shares in Sabina Gold and Silver. The two will continue to work on how to advance Inuit employees to higher level positions, and on infrastructure projects to bring more economic development to the region.

Some minor federal approvals remain, as well as licensing from the Nunavut Water Board before ground can be broken at the mine site.

Sabina has applied for two kinds of water licences. One will allow preliminary earthwork — building culverts, for example — while the company awaits approval for a full water licence, expected sometime in late 2018.

Now that the minister has approved the project, the company can start searching for financing for the project, which will cost around $400 million to build, Pickard says. He expects the company to have enough money raised to break ground in March, pending licence approvals. 

According to company reports, the mine could operate for more than 15 years and employ up to 900 on a fly-in-fly-out rotation.