Canadian government upholds Kiggavik recommendation

27 July 2016

The Canadian government has agreed with a 2015 recommendation by the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) that the Kiggavik uranium project should not proceed at this time, but said proponent Areva Resources Canada may resubmit the project for consideration in the future.

Canada's minister for indigenous and northern affairs, Carolyn Bennett, notified the NIRB of the decision in a letter dated 14 July and publicly released yesterday.

The NIRB's recommendation was made in May 2015 following an environmental assessment process of the proposed uranium mining and milling operation that would be located in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, approximately 80 kilometres west of the community of Baker Lake. In its report, the board concluded that the project should not proceed because Areva Resources Canada had not presented a definite start date or development schedule. This, it said, "adversely affected the weight and confidence which it could give to assessments of future ecosystemic and socioeconomic effects."

In her letter to the NIRB, Bennet said that the group of ministers with jurisdictional responsibility for authorizing whether the project should or should not proceed had reviewed the board's report and accepted its determination.

Areva Resources Canada had contended that the lack of a firm start date alone should not prevent the approval of the project. It had asked for the report to be returned to the NIRB so that the board could consider amending it to include appropriate terms and conditions to enable it to be approved. In a July 2015 letter to then-minister Bernard Valcourt, Areva Resources Canada CEO Vincent Martin said that start date uncertainty was not unique to Kiggavik and should not stand in the way of the environmental approval process.

Nunavut legislation requiring a new assessment to be carried out if a project does not commence within five years of its approval "largely" addressed the issue of uncertain start dates, Bennett said. However, the ministers agreed with the NIRB's finding that in this case mechanisms that might enable a more flexible approach would not be sufficient to address all the issues that might arise in the absence of a definite start date.

The ministers noted that uncertainty with respect to start dates and development schedules was a "common situation" for proposed developments in the region. The NIRB "should continue to assess each project based on its specific circumstances and, if possible, consider terms and conditions that can accommodate uncertainties with respect to the commencement of a project," she said.

The ministerial decision - like the NIRB recommendation - is not that the project should never go ahead. "We would also like to reiterate that Areva may resubmit the Kiggavik Project for consideration at such future time when increased certainty regarding the project start date can be provided," Bennett said.

Kiggavik has 48,953 tU of indicated uranium resources at an ore grade of 0.554% U3O8. The proposed mining and milling operation would take about four years to construct and operate for around 14 years. The operation would be co-owned by Areva (62.8%), JCU Canada Exploration (33.5%) and Daewoo Corporation (1.7%), and operated by Areva.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News