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Bennett Orders Full Environmental Assessment For Nunavut's Grays Bay
by Jane George - Nunatsiaq News
"Potential for adverse cumulative ecosystemic and socio-economic effects must factor prominently into the assessment"
This map shows the location of Grays Bay in Nunavut, located some 800 km north of Yellowknife in Nunavut. (FILE IMAGE)

The huge Grays Bay Road and Port project proposed for western Nunavut will undergo a full environmental review that will scrutinize the impacts of more mining and shipping on the region’s residents and environment, the Nunavut Impact Review Board said late Wednesday.

The responsible federal ministers said in a Jan. 15 letter to the review board that they have accepted its recommendation to refer the Grays Bay project proposal for a full environmental assessment, a process that the the NIRB had recommended last October in its screening report.

The federal approval now triggers a lengthy 10-step process that will include a public hearing. That process will get underway with the issuing of guidelines from the NIRB for the project’s detailed environmental impact statement.

The $500-million Grays Bay project would include a port at the Coronation Gulf on the Arctic Ocean and a 230-kilometre all-season road between the port and the site of the abandoned Jericho diamond mine.

Grays Bay’s first phase would involve the construction of an airstrip, a wharf capable of handling deep-sea ore carriers, offices and accommodation for permanent staff, a tank farm, a small craft harbour, a diesel generator and more.

The second phase, not part of the current proposal, would see a 95-km all-season road running from Jericho to the Northwest Territories border, where it would hook up with an all-season road to Yellowknife, which the Government of the N.W.T. wants to build in the future.

In its screening report on Grays Bay, the NIRB singled out five issues that it said merit a close review.

“The responsible ministers agree that these issues or concerns should be given careful consideration in the course of its review,” said Stephen Van Dine, an assistant deputy minister of northern affairs, in a Jan. 15 letter to the NIRB.

Those five issues, outlined again in a letter sent Jan. 17 by NIRB to all the parties concerned in the Grays Bay project, are:

• Potential cumulative effects of more mining in the Kitikmeot region: “the potential for adverse cumulative ecosystemic and socio-economic effects must factor prominently into the assessment of the Grays Bay Road and Port,” and include the construction of an all-weather connection to the N.W.T.

• Other transportation infrastructure projects: other major development projects currently under review by the NIRB, such as the proposed Bathurst Inlet Port and Road Project and the Izok Corridor Project, “have the potential to confuse or complicate the assessment of the Grays Bay Road and Port Project,” the NIRB said.

• Effects of increased shipping in the Kitikmeot region: Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.’s Back River Mine plans annual shipping from Bathurst Inlet at the same time as other shipping operations for the Doris North Gold Mine and for annual resupply to communities in the Kitikmeot regions. That means Grays Bay could “contribute significantly to the increasing frequency and amounts of goods and fuel being shipped within the Kitikmeot region.”

• Effects on the Bathurst caribou herd: the project lies partly within the calving and post-calving areas of the Bathurst herd and along the herd’s migratory route between Nunavut and the N.W.T.

• Transboundary issues: the project has the potential for adverse effects on the Bathurst caribou herd and may impact traditional harvest activities of communities in Nunavut and the N.W.T.

For the review process on Grays Bay, INAC said it would consider the need for providing access to participant funding to support the review, “if there is a demonstrable need.”

Earlier this year, the Government of Nunavut, a proponent of the Grays Bay project with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, said it would spend $2 million on the NIRB environmental review process for Grays Bay and “make this project ready for consideration.”

The challenge for project promoters now is to raise the $500 million needed to build it, which likely can’t come from a single source, such as the new national trade corridors fund, which has only $400 million over 11 years for the three territories.

The KIA has said it supports a full NIRB assessment because government money won’t start to flow unless there is an environmental assessment and regulatory approval.

You can find more information at the Grays Bay Road and Port website.

There are also multiple documents related to the NIRB’s environmental screening at the NIRB’s online public registry.

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