Jobs vs the environment debated

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Despite the potential risks to Beverly and Bathurst caribou herds, muskoxen, wolverines, bears, seals, birds and fish, archaeological sites, and to the environment, residents of Nunavut communities taking part in the roundtable presentations about the Sabina Back River mine were interested in the expectation for more jobs from the mine.

65 people in the Kitikmeot region are expected to work at the mine during its four-year construction period and 194 will work there during the mine’s 10-year operating life.

Sabina’s plans for Back River include a chain of open pit and underground mines at its Goose property, 400 km south of Cambridge Bay and 520 km north of Yellowknife, which will involve filling, damming or draining lakes and streams, and building a road from the mine to a seasonal port facility and tank farm in Bathurst Inlet.

Community representatives questioned the mining company on its ability to deal with toxic mine tailings, dust emissions and traffic on the ice road, shipping through Bathurst Inlet, fuel storage safety, and fuel spills.

Sabina promised to accommodate caribou by closing down outside operations, like blasting, in its “phased” adaptive-management approach, if caribou cows and calves approach the mine site. But Sabina wouldn’t stop traffic on the winter road or forgo construction in July and August when Beverly caribou migrate through the area.

Sabina still needs to negotiate an Inuit impact and benefits agreement, land tenure and royalty agreements and get a water licence from the Nunavut Water Board and raise money for the mine’s infrastructure.