"It will bring industry to a halt up there," Uravan Minerals Inc. CEO Larry Lahusen said Monday. "We can just walk away from it. We can sue the government for the $4 million we've spent on this project. We haven't decided."
Lahusen was responding to guidelines released Friday by the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) on what it expected of Uravan on a mandatory Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be done before the exploration project can be approved.
Included in the impact statement is what effect the project, involving aerial reconnaissance and test drilling, will have on caribou herds that migrate into northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
The Free Press reported Sunday that one of these herds, the Beverly herd, has almost vanished, whereas a decade ago it numbered in the thousands. The concern is many aboriginal people living in northern Manitoba and the far north depend on the caribou for meat. Without caribou that meat source will have to be replaced, most likely by food flown from the south.
Lahusen said the new restrictions on Uravan -- it has to do the EIS in precise detail -- couldn't have come at a worse time as the mining industry is taking a huge hit due to the global recession.
He said the Nunavut review board's decision threatens the entire mining industry and job creation for many northerners.
The NIRB's guidelines for the impact statement come after months of protest from many northerners, wildlife experts and nature lovers. They lobbied against Uravan's proposal, saying it threatened sensitive caribou calving grounds. Caribou spook easily by low-flying aircraft and other development. That upsets their natural instincts and they veer off traditional migration routes, which in turn reduces calving.
Lahusen also said Uravan is caught between the Nunavut government and Ottawa over what's best for land-planning in the north.
"This I guess is a way to put industry between the meat and the sandwich," he said. "These bureaucracies are now allowed to create all these unnecessary studies."