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Sabina Gold & Silver asks Ottawa to hold off on Nunavut mine decision

The Nunavut Impact Review Board doesn't want the proposed Back River gold mine project to move forward, but the decision is now in hands of the federal minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

Decision to let proposed gold mine move forward will be up to the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Sabina Gold and Silver's proposed gold mine at Back River lies about 300 kilometres east of Kugluktuk. The western Nunavut community was the first stop for the Nunavut Impact Review Board on its consultation tour of affected communities.

A mining company is asking the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to hold off on making a decision on whether or not to let the project move forward, after its proposal was rejected by the Nunavut Impact Review Board over concerns about caribou. 

Sabina Gold & Silver Corp.'s president and CEO sent a letter to Minister Carolyn Bennett Thursday, a day after the board issued its recommendation requesting the Back River gold mining project not proceed to the licensing stage at this time.

The minister now has to decide whether to accept that decision or reject it and send the project back to the board for reconsideration. Under the Nunavut land claim agreement, she can do so "on the grounds that the project should have been approved because of its importance in the national or regional interest."

"We are writing to respectfully request that you defer any decision in response to the report until we have had a chance to review the report in detail, to determine if we  wish to make any submissions to you in response to the report," writes Bruce McLeod.

Sabina estimates the proposed open-pit gold mine near Bathurst Inlet, Nunavut, could recover 3.4 million ounces of gold worth about $4 billion over a 10-year life span while employing up to 900 people.

The review board began assessing the mining proposal in 2012. In its report, it cites the mine's potential to adversely affect the Bathurst caribou and Beverly caribou herds.

"The board's mandate is neither pro-development or pro-conservation," said Ryan Barry, the Nunavut Impact Review Board's executive director. "It's both."

"We will be waiting to see how the minister responds to the recommendation."

Indigenous and Northern Affair said it's currently reviewing that recommendation.

"A decision on the report will be taken and announced following a thorough examination of the contents of the report," reads a statement from the ministry. 

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