Kitikmeot residents weigh in on proposed Back River mine

The Nunavut Impact Review Board is holding public consultations this week throughout the Kitikmeot region to discuss Sabina Gold and Silver’s proposed Back River mine.
Workers at the proposed Back River gold mine. Sabina Gold and Silver is hoping to build an open pit and underground mine with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years and up to 900 employees. (Sabina Gold and Silver)

Some people in Nunavut's western Kitikmeot region are worried about how a proposed gold mine could affect wildlife in the area.

Sabina Gold and Silver Corporation is hoping to open an open-pit and underground mine at their Back River site, about 75 kilometres south of Bathurst Inlet.

The mine would take two years to build and run for 10 to 15 years with about 900 employees. It would rely on a combination of all-weather and ice roads between the properties and Bathurst Inlet. 

Sabina has prepared a draft environmental impact statement about the project, addressing concerns about jobs and the environment.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board began public consultations on the document this week.

At a meeting Monday night in Kugluktuk, which lies over 300 kilometres west of the proposed mine, some local residents said they worried the project could disturb caribou herds.

Kugluktuk’s mayor, Red Pedersen, says Sabina is planning to respond to the concerns.

"They have a number of meetings yet to do. And the next meetings will, at least according to what they said, will include their response to the comments that were said at the consultation.”

NIRB is also hosting consultation sessions in Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk, Taloyoak and Yellowknife.

Ryan Barry is NIRB’s executive director.

“What we hope to get from the public is an indication of whether or not their concerns have been satisfactorily addressed, what they think of the proposed mine development itself, and just get them more involved as we proceed with the rest of the review.”

Information gathered at the consultations will go towards the creation of a final environmental impact statement for the board to consider.