Uranium Policy and the Nunavut Planning Commission

The following documents and discussion deal with the manner in which uranium mining, with a focus on AREVA’s Kiggavik proposal, has been considered by the Nunavut Planning Commission.

In the regulatory framework created by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, proposed mining projects must be examined by the Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC) to ensure that they conform to Land Use Plans in effect for the various regions of Nunavut. If the NPC determines that a proposed project conforms with the relevant Land Use Plan, the NPC then forwards the proposal to the Nunavut Impact Review Board for environmental screening and environmental review.

The Nunavut Planning Commission Transition Team completed the Keewatin Regional Land Use Plan (KRLUP) — the land use plan applicable to the Baker Lake area — in September 1991. The KRLUP received approval from the Government of Canada in October 1994 and from the Government of the Northwest Territories in March 1995. Two sections of the KRLUP deal specifically with uranium.

Term 3.5 of the Keewatin Regional Land Use Plan states:

“Uranium development shall not take place until the NPC, NIRB, the NWB, and the NWMB have reviewed all of the issues relevant to uranium exploration and mining. Any review of uranium exploration and mining shall pay particular attention to questions concerning health and environmental protection.”

Term 3.6 states:

“Any future proposal to mine uranium must be approved by the people of the region.”

The Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC) held a Uranium Mining Workshop in June of 2007.

Click here to access the NPC’s report from the 2007 uranium workshop.

Click here to access the transcript of the NPC’s 2007 uranium workshop.

Click here to access Dr. Gordon Edwards’ presentation to the NPC’s 2007 uranium workshop.

Click here to access the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board’s presentation to the NPC’s 2007 uranium workshop

The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB), the Nunavut Water Board (NWB) and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) were not informed that the NPC intended to make a major decision after holding the workshop.

The report of the NPC workshop notes that “No decisions were made at the workshop”, but the report also includes an internal NPC motion made shortly after the workshop which stated that “the NPC, NIRB, the NWB and the NWMB held a public meeting … to review a broad range of topics presented by professionals and interested parties on uranium exploration and mining …” Readers would be forgiven for thinking that “the NPC, NIRB, the NWB and the NWMB held a public meeting” meant that the workshop had been some sort of jointly-planned event. The NPC motion continued: “The Nunavut Planning Commission believes it has thereby complied with its obligations pursuant to term 3.5 Keewatin Regional Land Use Plan.”

The Chairs of the NIRB, NWB and the NWMB responded to the workshop report with an extraordinary joint letter noting their surprise “because, among things, we had not seen the report; as such it did not come from us; nor did we fully participate at the Workshop – other than giving a very brief overview presentation.”

Nowhere in the NPC workshop report is there a mention of Term 3.6 of the Keewatin Regional Land Use Plan: “Any future proposal to mine uranium must be approved by the people of the region.”

Beginning in December 2006, Hamlet Councils in the Kivalliq region began passing conditional resolutions of support for AREVA’s Kiggavik proposal. Section 11.5.10 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) instructs the NPC to review all applications for project proposals. On January 16, 2009 the NPC issued a conformity determination for the proposed Kiggavik project, stating that the project proposal conformed to the Keewatin Regional Land Use Plan. In its determination, the NPC stated that “with respect to sections 3.5 and 3.6 of the KLRUP which require review of all issues relevant to uranium exploration and mining by the NPC, as well as approval of the people of the region, the NPC has concluded that these requirements have been met.” Pursuant to Section 12.3.1 of the NLCA, the NPC then forwarded the project proposal to the NIRB for screening.

The NPC’s conformity determination was questioned by the Baker Lake Concerned Citizens Committee. The committee argued that only a public plebiscite could determine whether or not the people of the region support uranium mining.

Concerned Baker Lake residents question public support for Areva proposal CBC News North Feb 18, 2009

Despite these objections, on March 13, 2009, the NIRB recommended that AREVA’s Kiggavik proposal proceed to public review pursuant to Section 12.4.4 (b) of the NLCA. AREVA’s proposal is currently undergoing a public review carried out by the Nunavut Impact Review Board.