Uravan's exploration bid in Nunavut must address cumulative impact of mining
Uravan Minerals Inc., which wants to explore for minerals in Nunavut, must address not only its own operation's impact on the environment and wildlife but that of other companies mining in the area as well if it wants the federal government to consider its proposal.
The Nunavut Impact Review Board is currently conducting a full environmental review of Uravan's proposal to drill at its Garry Lake site, located 245 kilometres northwest of Baker Lake.
Late last month, the board asked the company to address the "cumulative impacts" of mining work in the area where Garry Lake is located — an area that is not only of great interest to mining companies but is also in the calving grounds for the Beverley caribou herd.
"There is significant interest already in the ground in other projects, and there is also a critical resource there, which is the calving grounds of the Beverley herd," Jeff Rusk, the review board's director of technical services, told CBC News.
"Taken together, we have the potential for cumulative impacts."
Several mining companies have expressed interest over the years in exploring the land near Baker Lake for uranium and other minerals.
One company, Areva Resources Canada Inc., has its own proposal before the review board to build a uranium mine at its Kiggavik site, about 80 kilometres west of Baker Lake.
In October, despite protests by Uravan, the federal government took the unprecedented step of ordering the company to submit a full environmental review as part of its proposal — a process that is usually required for more advanced mining projects.
Rusk said the cumulative impacts of mining in the area, by Uravan and others, could have an impact of the environment.
"Just a generic example could be that a certain discharge into a lake may be acceptable [when] done by one person. But if there's 50 discharges of that same substance into a lake from different parties, that may individually be within a certain minimum, that cumulative effect may be such that too much has been added to that lake," he said.
Federal government officials in Nunavut echoed that view, saying the impact review board's request for a cumulative assessment is reasonable.
"While the impacts of a single project … might be small, when considered in the context of multiple projects of a similar scale, their collective impacts might be much broader and more significant," said Michael Naderl, Nunavut regional director with the federal Indian and Northern Affairs Department.
Officials with Uravan have not responded to requests for comment from CBC News.