Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl has accepted a controversial recommendation to reject a company's bid to explore for uranium in the Northwest Territories' Upper Thelon basin.
Chuck Strahl announced earlier this week that he accepts the findings of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, which conducted the environmental assessment of Ur-Energy Inc.'s proposal.
In May, the board recommended against allowing the company to conduct an exploratory drill near the basin, in the territory's easternmost region.
The board ruled such development would have a major and irreversible cultural and spiritual impact on the area's Lutselk'e Dene people, who describe theareaas "the place where God began."
"It's good not only for the environmental protection over the short term, but certainly it's a very good indication of support for aboriginal communities and their control, basically, over their traditional territories," Ray Griffith, the N.W.T. manager with the World Wildlife Fund of Canada, said Thursday.
But while Strahl sided with the review board, he also asked officials with Indian and Northern Affairs to develop a plan that may allow development in some areas of the basin. He has asked for that plan by the end of November.
"We don't want to make any pre-determined guesses about which areas would be in or out of bounds," department official Carolyn Relf, who is working on the plan, told CBC News.
"I think we want to look at all interests in the area."
But Griffith said the department may have painted itself into a corner by accepting the impact review board's rejection of Ur-Energy's proposal: the board is currently looking at four other applications for uranium exploration in the same area.
"I mean, if they recommended against Ur-Energy, it would be completely inconsistent to approve these other four," Griffith said.
"They would have to explain the inconsistency, which they couldn't do."
Mining industry playershave said the board's recommendation to reject Ur-Energy's exploration bid will hurt the Northwest Territories.