08EN037 – Caribou Calving Area at the Center of Uravan Garry Lake Project Assessment by the Nunavut Impact Review Board
by admin ~ December 8th, 2008
The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) takes up a proposal this month by Uravan Minerals Inc. for a uranium exploration project south of Garry Lake along the Back River in Nunavut. Components of the project (PDF) include: aerial geophysical surveys, ground geochemical sampling, diamond drilling, construction of permanent exploration camp and mobile temporary camp, ground transportation by “sno-cat type vehicle,” snow machines and all terrain vehicles, air transportation by fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, construction of airstrips and touchdown areas, transportation and storage of fuel and hazardous materials, sewage and waste management, and mitigation proposals for disturbance to caribou herds. Areas of concern cited in the Screening Decision Report (PDF) include long term “cumulative impacts” and “adverse ecosystemic effects” from increased industrial and mineral exploration activities within core caribou calving areas of the Beverly herd, and possible long term impacts to Inuit harvesting activities.
The project is located within the calving grounds of the Beverly barren-ground caribou herd. Recent research has strengthened the information basis for concerns about how caribou responses to human activities on calving and post-calving areas can accumulate to the level that affect caribou. (Government of Nunavut).
Caribou population estimates have become a major focus of concern in recent years (here, here, and here), and from wildlife managers in the region (GNWT and BQCMB). The latest survey statistics for the Beverly herd show sharp declines in the number of calves on calving grounds (from 5,737 in 1994 to 93 in 2008), and an extremely low number of calves per 100 cows (see latest survey statistics). Population cycles, climate change, and industrial activities have been cited as common concerns, and meetings with regulators and the 2007 Caribou Summit have urged the need for long term assessments and a coordinated approach to caribou management. Among their recommendations: protection of the “calving grounds in the NWT and Nunavut,” a precautionary approach to caribou-related decisions, implementation of existing Wildlife Management Plans (such as the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary Management Plan), implementation of harvesting quotas for some populations, and long term study of the cumulative impacts of industrial activities on barren ground caribou ranges and populations. Several companies (De Beers, Areva, and Cameco) have declared they will no longer conduct activities on caribou calving and post-calving grounds in Nunavut, because they understand the implications of this activity (1).
An Environmental Assessment is currently underway on the project. Comments on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (PDF) can be made until December 12, 2008. I urge all concerned parties to participate in this review process. There are currently 727 active mineral tenures (permits, claims and leases) on the Beverly calving ground. The Uravan project includes 355 claims covering 829,170 acres within the core calving ground of the Beverly herd. As described in the announcement by the NIRB (PDF), you can e-mail your letters of concern or comments to Leslie Payette, Manager Environmental Administration Nunavut Impact Review Board, at the following address (email@example.com). Please enter the subject heading: “Uravan Garry Lake Project, NIRB File 08EN037.”
For more information:
- Maps: Uravan Garry Lake Project and Beverly Caribou Calving Range.
- Uravan Minerals Inc.: Garry Lake Uranium Property.
- Nunavut Impact Review Board: Uravan Garry Lake Project Review (08EN037).
- Key Review documents (PDF): Scoping Workshop Report, Screening Decision Report, Draft EIS, Request for Comments.
- Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (BQCMB) documents: Backgrounder (PDF), Press Release, Comments on Garry Lake Proposal, April 23, 2008 (PDF), Further Comments, June 09, 2008 (PDF), Attachment A (PDF), Comments on the Draft Scope, October 29, 2008 (PDF).
- Press coverage: “Uravan Minerals Inc. – Garry Lake Uranium Project – INAC Minister Decision” (Oct. 06, 2008), “WWF Praises De Beers Commitment to Stay Out of Caribou Calving Areas in the NWT and Nunavut” (Oct. 28, 2008), “Another caribou herd in steep decline: study” (Dec. 01, 2008), “Survey: Beverly caribou herd in big decline” (Dec. 05, 2008).
- NIRB: “Final Guidelines for the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement, For Uravan Minerals Inc.’s Garry Lake Project, NIRB File No. 08EN037” (PDF, February 20, 2009).
- Uravan: “Garry Lake Uranium Project – A Land Permit Conundrum” (Press Release, Jan. 26, 2009).
- News: “Few Inuit among hundreds of Nunavut board submissions on Uravan proposal” (Jan. 15, 2009), “Independent report backs N.W.T. caribou study: minister” (Jan. 22, 2009), “Concerned Baker Lake residents question public support for Areva proposal” (Feb. 18, 2009), “Paddlers Oppose Tundra Uranium Mine” (Feb. 23, 2009), “Uravan may dump mine plans – Nunavut study cramps exploration: CEO” (Feb. 24, 2009), Uravan’s exploration bid in Nunavut must address cumulative impact of mining (March 16, 2009).