The Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs has issued a final decision to accept the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s recommendation to not approve the proposed Kiggavik Project at this time.
AREVA is very disappointed with this outcome. AREVA and its partners in this project spent over eight years and tens of millions of dollars on the environmental assessment process. The Kiggavik Project, demonstrated through the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) review, had no unresolvable issues and would provide positive, long-term benefits to the Kivalliq Region. Having start date uncertainty is not unique to this project and it occurs quite frequently in Canada given the timeline for approvals and constantly changing market conditions.
The Minister’s Decision itself makes note that uncertainty of start date is a common situation for proposed developments in the north and that provisions in the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act and/or terms and conditions to a Project Certificate that accommodate uncertainty can largely address this issue. These provisions were discussed at length throughout the process and during the NIRB final hearing and we are obviously disappointed that they were not applied to the Project. As stated throughout the regulatory review process, AREVA was fully prepared to re-evaluate and confirm the accuracy of our predictions should there have been a significant delay in project start date and to evaluate performance against predictions throughout operations.
AREVA is fully aware that in order to have a successful development we require regulatory approvals, community engagement and support, and favorable economic conditions. At the end of this nearly eight year process, the question remains whether the Project, as designed, could meet the requirements for development in Nunavut at this time. Further, the decision by the authorities to not apply available remedies to take into consideration an uncertain project start date influences the company’s investment risk and future project advancement.
AREVA recently concluded our summer field season in Nunavut. There was no drilling, geophysics, prospecting, or geological mapping in 2016. A crew spent 10 days at the site transitioning and securing the exploration camp for care and maintenance. Given the decision on the project and the market conditions, there are no immediate plans to resume exploration activities.
We will take some time to decide our next steps and will discuss with our partners in this project in the coming months. AREVA continues to believe the Kiggavik Project is sound and can offer many benefits to Nunavut without compromising the environment.
This year, the Kiggavik exploration camp opened on June 11, 2015 and plans are set to close by the end of August. This year the camp is supported by ten (10) Baker Lake seasonal staff, several of them are returning staff from previous seasonal work with AREVA. Once again many local, northern businesses are providing goods and services. The total value of AREVA’s goods and services spending with Kivalliq and Nunavut contractors is tracked and reported in AREVA’s Kiggavik Project Field Program Annual Report. Previous reports are available on this Kiggavik Project website HERE or on the Nunavut Impact Review Board site HERE. We will post this year’s field program report on this blog once it is finalized later in the year.
Since the start of this summer field season, the exploration crew has drilled 4,990 m (as of July, 25, 2015) and is expecting to reach a total of 8,400 m drilled for the 2015 season. Drilling is the creation of “core”, a cylindrical sample of bedrock that is about 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter. The length of the core sample varies with most holes at Kiggavik drilled to a depth of about 300 m (1,000 feet). The core is placed in wooden boxes and stored at the Kiggavik site where geologists study them to evaluate the possibility of finding a new deposit or the shape, grade, and other aspects of potential and known deposits. Select pieces of core are also commonly sent to AREVA’s Saskatoon, Saskatchewan exploration office for further study including chemical analysis.
With the short, seasonal summer programs at Kiggavik, our researchers cannot do all the work they want or plan to do on the cores so this year AREVA plans to send whole cores (not pieces) from two holes drilled within the Kiggavik deposits to Saskatoon and then to our mine site at McClean Lake in northern Saskatchewan. This will allow us to do further, year-round research on the Kiggavik core/deposits at the McClean Lake site. Similar to previous transport of core pieces, the planned transport of whole core will follow the relevant federal, territorial, and provincial rules and regulations for the transportation of these samples. The whole core will be transported south in core boxes inside a small, certified sea container and the core piece samples will be transported in small certified pails.
It takes many exploration field programs to determine the full extent of a deposit, for example exploration work was first carried out at Kiggavik in the late 1970’s, then in the late 1980’s and then again between 1993 and 1997 by a previous company. After a nine year exploration suspension, AREVA resumed annual field programs at Kiggavik in the spring of 2007 and has had drilling programs in the area ever since. You can learn more about the Kiggavik Project history here (Final Environmental Impact Statement Tier 1 Volume 1 Part 1 Section 1.4).
Did you know that uranium mines have had 100% compliance with the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations from 2007 to 2011 and out-performed base metal, precious metal, and iron mines? See Table 2-5 below.
The above table and a full discussion on the performance of uranium mines and how this performance compares to other types of mining is available as Exhibit #53 provided during the Kiggavik Project environmental assessment final hearing. Exhibit #53 – the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Staff Report in the Performance of Uranium Fuel Cycle and Processing Facilities: 2012 (April 2014) is available HERE.
A number of parties raised concerns related to the difference or gap between actual risk and perceived risk with a uranium mining operation during the Kiggavik Project final hearing in March 2015. There was for example a conversation between the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in which they referenced the concept and examples of comfort or community monitoring (final hearing transcript pages 1054-57) that, despite some similarities, has a different intention from project effects monitoring as outlined in the Kiggavik Project final environmental impact statement.
We refer to project monitoring when effects can reasonably be expected to be measurable. Project monitoring happens for the most part near the operations because they are meant to record the performance of the operations and their anticipated limited extent of environmental effects. These monitoring programs, including their design, location, frequency, etc., are focused on confirming that predictions made before operations start are accurate, ensuring effects are well known and continue to be acceptable. They also inform needed improvements (adaptive management) and opportunities for improvement (continual improvement).
If the air and water quality are measured and acceptable as they leave the facility and are measured outward until they become either negligible or undetectable there is a high-level of confidence the larger landscape remains healthy and available for use and harvest without restriction. However, not everyone feels comfortable and confident that if changes are not occurring nearby operations they may not be occurring near their community or popular land use locations. In Saskatchewan the government and mine proponents set up community monitoring. This monitoring takes place in locations that are not selected based on possible operational effects but rather they are selected based on community land use. Sampling and monitoring is conducted in these locations to provide greater assurance and comfort to residents that the environment and country food remains safe. The sampling for these community monitoring programs is done by trained local residents, while testing and reporting is performed by independent environmental consultants.
AREVA has worked with others throughout the Kiggavik environmental review to close the gap between actual and perceived risks by:
- transparently presenting and communicating the actual risks with associated design and procedures to manage them,
- organizing uranium and radiation 101 workshops,
- offering exploration camps and mine site tours,
- contributing to the development of new Inuktitut terminology, and
- increasing understanding of uranium exploration and mining through other means such as open houses, public meetings and postings on the Kiggavik Project blog.
Further, AREVA provided a framework for the development of a future community monitoring program in the final environmental impact statement (described in Tier 3 Appendices 1F – Social and Ecological Context and 3C – Community Involvement Plan) and committed to support the continued work of the Inuit Language Authority so that future Inuit workers can clearly communicate their activities at the workplace to family and community members with Inuktitut words and concepts.
These are some of the examples of AREVA’s continued efforts to address and mitigate actual and perceived risks.
On May 8, 2015 the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) issued a recommendation that the proposed Kiggavik project not be approved at this time. NIRB clarified that the intention was not for the project to not proceed at any time but suggested the proposal be resubmitted at a future date when the project’s start date is more certain. The NIRB recommendation is before the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for a decision to accept, reject, or return the report to the NIRB for more consideration.
AREVA disagrees with the NIRB recommendation to not provide an environmental assessment (EA) approval for the Kiggavik project at this time. As supported by the Final Environmental Assessment Statement and submissions of federal authorities at the NIRB Final hearing, there are no significant unresolvable environmental issues in the proposed Kiggavik project.
Obtaining EA approval for projects in advance of a certain development date enables companies to capitalize on favorable market conditions when they exist. Having the EA approval in hand shortens the post-EA regulatory process to licensing and allows a project to proceed to development and operation in a more timely fashion. If the Minister rejects the recommendation and approval is received, the Kiggavik project will be more likely to receive approval from shareholders to proceed to development when market conditions are favorable.
The EA for the Kiggavik project took place over eight years and included intensive engagement, IQ workshops and integration, technical studies, and review by responsible authorities and many interested parties. AREVA has followed the process outlined in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) and continues to do so. AREVA respects Nunavummiut, the NLCA, and the authority of the NIRB. We have generally found all participants in the review to be highly professional and competent and believe it is responsible for us to publically raise our concerns for consideration in the final decision.
Ultimately, we are not the decision-makers but we are asserting that the environmental assessment for the Kiggavik project is sound and the approval should therefore be provided. Being a welcomed and productive part of the region is important to AREVA and these values do not change when we express disagreement with a regulatory process, recommendation, or decision.