IQALUIT, Jan. 15, 2017 /CNW/ - Canada's vulnerable barren ground caribou population cannot bear new threats, WWF-Canada repeats, after the federal government reopened the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) decision to recommend against a new mine project largely because of its potential impact on the caribou.
In June, the NIRB decided against the Back River Gold Mine project to ensure protections for the sensitive Bathurst caribou herd and the people of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories communities who depend on them.
On Jan. 12, Canada's Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett sent the project's final hearing report back to the NIRB to re-examination. Ms. Bennett said the report does not fully explain proposed mitigation measures, suggesting there is room for more discussion on the subject.
Paul Crowley, WWF-Canada's vice-president of Arctic conservation, says:
"It's important that projects such as the Back River Mine receive a fair and thorough impact review. While the project did propose some measures for protecting caribou, those measures are untested and unproven.
"Now is not the time to test new, risky mitigation measures when the Bathurst herd has declined to five per cent of its historic high and the species as a whole has been newly assessed as 'threatened' in Canada.
"WWF-Canada has been calling for habitat protections to be implemented under the Nunavut Land Use Plan to prevent future exploration and development projects from endangering already sensitive places and species."
About the Bathurst barren ground caribou herd:
- A 2015 survey indicated a significant population decline in the Bathurst herd, with as few as 16,000 remaining, down from 35,000 in 2012, 186,000 in 2003, and a historic high of 470,000 in 1986 (greater than 95 per cent decline).
- The number of breeding females in the herd has declined by 50 per cent since 2012.
- Low population numbers have resulted in caribou harvesting bans in communities in the Northwest Territories.
- In December, Canada's Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife newly assessed all barren-ground caribou in Canada as "threatened," which indicates the species "is likely to become endangered if nothing is done."
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