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CanTung faces environmental review

Mine will stay open while water licence application assessed by board

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 02/02) - The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board has decided a full environmental assessment is in order for CanTung mine.

Chuck Blyth, superintendent of Nahanni National Park reserve, says Parks Canada was in favour of a full environmental assessment for CanTung mine. - Derek Neary/NNSL photo

North American Tungsten made application for water licence renewal in February, a month after the mine went back into production following 15 years of dormancy. The company contended that it should be exempt from an environmental review because its water licence was originally granted in 1975 under the NWT Water Act.

On July 18, the Land and Water Board ruled to the contrary. The board concluded that the application isn't simply a continuation of its previous licence, but instead grounds for a new licence under current terms set out in the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

Because North American Tungsten's water licence expires on Sept. 29, the Land and Water Board is willing to extend the existing licence until the environmental assessment is complete or until Sept. 29, 2003, whichever comes first.

North American Tungsten has a limited time frame in which it can call for a judicial review of the Land and Water Board's decision. Udo von Doehren, president of North American Tungsten, said he was not prepared to comment on the matter as of Friday.

He did not return the Drum's phone calls prior to press deadline.

Vein Christensen, executive director of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, which is now handling the matter, said an environmental assessment evaluates biophysical, social, economic and cultural impacts of a project.

He said the Impact Review Board will be convening within a few weeks, but he declined to speculate as to how long the environmental review process will take.

The Land and Water Board's decision came as welcome news to Chuck Blyth, superintendent of Nahanni National Park reserve. Parks Canada was among eight intervenors that recommended a full environmental assessment.

"We wanted to make sure there was enough available information to make a determination of significance; is there an effect (on the park) or not?" Blyth explained.

He added that CanTung mine, located near the NWT/Yukon border, is situated on the Flat River, which flows into the park and is also a tributary of the South Nahanni River.

Blyth noted that Parks Canada and North American Tungsten, despite their differences, are working together on a co-operative ecosystem management strategy.