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Canadian caribou board asks for halt of Nunavut project

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic
CBC Eye on the Arctic, Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board

A caribou conservation group is protesting plans for mineral exploration in the Qamanirjuaq calving grounds in Canada.

Anconia Resources has received approval to carry out drilling there this summer - in an area between Arviat and Baker Lake. Now the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board is appealing for legal protection for the caribou.

Executive Director Ross Thompson said the board is frustrated. "The membership of the board [is] saying ‘what's happening here?’ Since '04 we have formally registered a paper on why the calving grounds should be protected, and since then no action's been taken," said Thompson.

The Kivalliq Inuit Association and the Nunavut Impact Review Board have approved the project. Thompson said the Qamanirjuaq caribou may be in decline, and calving grounds are especially sensitive.

"All of a sudden, boom, right in the middle in the Q calving ground is a permit that is going to be issued likely by both agencies now. So, it's just like, enough's enough. We're very discouraged, disheartened and frustrated."

10 drill holes

Anconia president Jason Brewster points out that his company is complying with permitting requirements in Nunavut and will follow Caribou Protection Measures when they start drilling next month.

Brewster said the work will consist of 10 drill holes using one drill, and he said all the holes will be capped and left in "as close to undisturbed condition as possible when completed".

Brewster added that they will keep staff to a minimum and use an existing camp about 65 kilometres away from the site.

Ryan Barry, the executive director of the Nunavut Impact Review Board, said the board took concerns about caribou into account when it approved the project.

"At the same time we have to be cognizant of the fact that the current land-use planning regime, the legislation that is in the Kivalliq region, does allow for exploration and development in these areas," said Barry.

Thompson says that is exactly why the Caribou Board wants legislation to protect the calving grounds.

"I have been with caribou all my life, and have seen firsthand how human disturbance and access on the ranges can threaten their very existence. It is discouraging that nobody’s listening," said Thompson.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.