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The Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board is deeply concerned over the decision to grant exploration permits in the middle of the qamanirjuaq herd's calving grounds, midway between Arviat and Baker Lake. - photo courtesy of Mike Robbins

Concern over calving grounds

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (BQCMB) is alarmed over mineral exploration being allowed in the heart of the Qamanirjuaq caribou calving grounds.

The concern revolves around Anconia Resources Corp.'s planned exploration at its Marce Project near Victory Lake, about midway between Arviat and Baker Lake.

Anconia plans to start work in midJuly, when the area is likely to be occupied by a large number of vulnerable caribou cows and calves seeking critical summer forage.

A oneyear licence was issued by the Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA), while Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) is processing a second application for a land use permit for the portion of the project on Crown land.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) screened the application and recommended approval with specific terms and conditions for Anconia to adhere to during its exploration.

The BQCMB contends the recommendations for permits to be issued was not appropriate without a full review because of the likely detrimental effects of this project on the qamanirjuaq caribou herd and its harvesters from across the caribou range.

It also contends the screening process is flawed, due to concerns about the potential impacts on caribou submitted in writing by the BQCMB and the Arviat Hunters and Trappers Organization being disregarded. The BQCMB claims the NIRB should have rejected the application or conducted a full review of the project.

BQCMB executive director Ross Thompson said the board is shocked over the permits being granted.

He said companies shouldn't be given any hope or expectation of going into the calving grounds on the strength of the claim it's light intensity and they're only exploring.

"What happens if they find something?" said Thompson.

"Then you're into major disturbance and access.

"With the qamanirjuaq herd stable at best, and all the stress on both these herds, we're disappointed and frustrated companies are allowed to go into these crucial habitat areas."

Thompson said caribou protection measures are only as good as enforcement ability and activity.

He said while jobs are important, many organizations are taking the caribou resource for granted.

"We had the value of the caribou professionally assessed, and it matches up very well with what industry may contribute to local economy.

"We're talking more than $20 million in the annual value of animals harvested from those two herds.

"It's great to see jobs will be created on paper, but what's going to be left behind that will impact a renewable resource like caribou?"

Thompson said realistically, the permits probably won't be denied Anconia.

But, he said, he hopes the uproar and a time out for a cool assessment will mean it doesn't happen again.

"We'll have to wait and see how things materialize with enforcing protection measures, and how Anconia operates in a crucial area at a crucial time.

"The caribou protection measures only affect caribou disturbance, but they should also be looking at the impact on habitat and the life-cycle of the caribou."

NIRB executive director Ryan Berry said the project proposal for work on Inuit-owned lands was screened, there were concerns, and the board prescribed what it thought to be pretty restrictive terms and conditions.

He said the NIRB got the application for work on adjoining Crown land after it had concluded the first screening.

"We reported to the KIA the project could be approved to proceed," said Berry.

"When the other application from AANDC came in, we confirmed it was the same project we had just screened and forwarded our recommendations.

"The board felt, with its recommendations being followed, the project could be handled without having any environmental impact."

Berry said the NIRB understands concerns about what happens if the company finds a substantial deposit.

But, he said, it can only deal with what a company applies for at any given time.

"If a company found something and wanted to develop a mine, that's a whole different ball game.

"They'd have to apply and go through a process where the results, you could expect, might be very different.

"What's often missed is that, as an environmental assessment board, we can't make policy-based decisions that say we should say no to this project because of what it might lead to.

"That's a land use planning decision that says we're not going to allow exploration here because we don't want a mine in this area.

"We understand the concerns, but we're not able to address it because it's simply not our mandate."

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