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Sabina Back River gold mine proposal needs more study, Ottawa tells NIRB

The Nunavut Impact Review Board rejected Sabina Gold and Silver Corporation’s proposed Back River gold mine project in June, but the federal government is concerned with some of the board’s findings.

Nunavut Impact Review Board had recommended federal government quash the project, citing caribou concerns

Caribou from the Bathurst herd in 2015. Their well-being had been a concern for the Nunavut Impact Review Board. (GNWT)

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says the federal government is not ready to reject a proposal for gold mine in Nunavut's Kitikmeot region, calling it "premature" to conclude the effects of the mine would be unmanageable. 

The Nunavut Impact Review Board rejected the Sabina Gold and Silver Corporation's proposed Back River gold mine project — planned for 95 kilometres southeast of Bathurst Inlet — in June. But the federal government is concerned with some of the board's findings and wants more information.

"While the report is being referred back to the board due to the deficiencies outlined above, we encourage the board to take the opportunity for further review or hearings," Bennett wrote in a Jan. 12 letter to the review board.

Those deficiencies related to five environmental issues where the federal government requires more information or clarification from the Nunavut Impact Review Board. Those include the proposed mine's effect on the caribou and other wildlife, the marine environment, freshwater wildlife, water quality and climate change.

The effect that the mine would have on the caribou population has been a flashpoint for this process. In June, the review board wrote there is a "high level of concern" about how a mine would affect the herd in the region. 

In response, the federal government asked the review board to re-examine a joint proposal from Nunavut's territorial government, Sabina Gold and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association on how to manage that issue.

Sabina Gold and Silver's Back River proposed gold mine at Back River lies about 95 kilometres southeast of Bathurst Inlet

Those three groups struck an alliance after the proposal was initially rejected in June. The Back River property holds an estimated 3.4 million ounces of gold and Sabina estimates the mine could employ 900 people.

A representative from the the Nunavut Impact Review Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CBC News. 

On mobile? Read the full letter from the ministry here. 

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