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Mining company going forward on exploration in Paulatuk

Katie May
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 24, 2009

PAULATUK - Darnley Bay Resources is once again planning to explore the potentially mineral-rich land near Paulatuk, and this time the mining company says it has the money to advance the project.

NNSL photo/graphic

Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee member Lawrence Ruben, seated at left, and committee president John Max Kudlak, right, listen as Stephen Reford, centre, the president of Darnley Bay Resources Limited, outlines the boundaries for the mining company's proposed exploration site just outside of Paulatuk. Darnley Bay Resources plans to do a ground survey this September of a parcel of land thought to be rich in metals. - Katie May/NNSL photo

Starting in September, Darnley Bay wants to carry out a ground survey of a section of land that borders Tuktut Nogait National Park to test for minerals in the area, which the Geological Survey of Canada has assigned a moderate to high rating for possible mineral development of nickel, copper, platinum and gold.

Darnley Bay Resources Limited has for years been trying to figure out which metals are present there, hoping to set up a mine in the future. Last May, the community of Paulatuk debated and eventually approved the company's exploration plans. Then, the global financial crisis hit and the company put its plans on hold.

Now Darnley Bay is starting to move forward again. Company president Stephen Reford visited Paulatuk earlier this month to get community leaders' input on the ground survey, which would require a crew to set up camp outside of Paulatuk and walk about 15 km per day on the parcel of land to get mineral readings. The company expects the survey to cost roughly $200,000 and last no more than a month.

John Max Kudlak, president of the Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee, raised concerns about wildlife, particularly since caribou are expected to migrate through the area in early September.

He said the committee is in favour of the project as long as Darnley Bay follows its recommendations, which include driving ATVs to the campsite instead of travelling by helicopter so as to create a lesser disruption for wildlife, and travelling with a wildlife monitor appointed by the hunters and trappers.

Kudlak said it's important that "we have people out there reporting to us, not to Darnley Bay or IRC (Inuvialuit Regional Corporation). We're the caretakers of this whole area," he added. "Listening to our own people, there's a difference, you know, with trust."

In addition to the wildlife monitor, Darnley Bay also plans to bring along an environmental monitor from the community to ensure none of the fieldwork harms the landscape - a big concern among Paulatuk residents since Darnley Bay last set up camp in the area nearly 10 years ago, said Paulatuk Community Corporation chair Gilbert Thrasher Sr.

"They left behind a bunch of barrels and there was some spills that were not reported so we don't want to see that anymore," Thrasher said. "You go in clean; you come out clean. The land should be the way it was when you first went in there."

This first phase of the project would benefit Paulatuk's economy by providing jobs for the monitors and giving people the opportunity to rent out their ATVs for the crew to use, so most people want to see the project succeed, Thrasher said. But he doesn't want to get his hopes up for a mine.

"As the picture gets larger and larger and larger, the more attention it's paid by the locals. But this small, little project is not an issue we have to worry about," he said. "Every time we meet with Darnley Bay, that's something that we always look down the road because one day it's going to be dealt in a different way; everybody's going to be screening every little issue that the project might have in the future. But that's another picture. I don't know if I'll be around."

Referd, who's based in Toronto, said he was happy with how the community leaders, including the hunters and trappers committee, the mayor and the community corporation, responded to Darnley Bay's latest proposal considering "the last time we came, we did describe some fairly large plans and I think we raised expectations here a little bit too high in terms of opportunities," he said.

"Even though we're starting small again, it's better than not doing anything so we're happy to be on the ground," Reford added.

"The ultimate goal for us and for a lot of other people is to figure out what is causing this big anomaly and hopefully there's some economic minerals associated with it so that it would benefit, you know, everyone in the North, but Paulatuk more than anyone else."

Darnley Bay expects to have the survey results by the end of September, at which point the company can start choosing drill sites.

Any further projects depend on the company securing more money, so Darnley Bay is looking to partner with another company from Canada, Russia or possibly China.