Mining development in Nunavik is a major issue for the Inuit, who live in the region’s 14 communities, and the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach. Nunavik occupies 36%, or 500,000 km2, of Québec’s land area. In 2015 alone, there were over 30,000 mining claims in the region, two active mines, five mining projects at advance planning stages and many mineral exploration activities. The KEAC is concerned about the potential impacts of mine development on Nunavik’s natural and social environments.
In accordance with the provisions of the JBQNA, the KEAC closely monitors regulations applicable to mineral exploration and mining in Nunavik. The KEAC focuses in particular on the application of environmental assessment procedures for mining activities and the application of the provisions of the natural and social environmental protection regime set out in Section 23 of the JBQNA and Chapter II of the Environment Quality Act.
Uranium industry development in Québec
In March 2014, the Québec government gave a mandate to the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (environmental public hearings committee, BAPE) to review and hold public hearings on the uranium industry in Québec. As the mandate covered all of the province, including the territories governed by the JBNQA and the Northeastern Québec Agreement, the BAPE contacted the KEAC and the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment (JBACE) to request their participation in hosting the hearings planned in Nunavik and the James Bay region.
Three phases of consultations were carried out by the BAPE, the KEAC and the JBACE in various villages in Nunavik and the James Bay region between May and December 2014. During the consultations, the general public had an opportunity to express opinions, provide feedback and ask questions. In general, the participants indicated their concerns regarding the effects of uranium exploration and mining on the natural environment, the animals they hunt and the plants they gather, as well as human health and safety. They also indicated that it was difficult to assess the economic benefits in relation to the risks.
In July 2015, the MDDELCC released the report concerning the investigation and public hearings on the uranium industry in Québec prepared by the BAPE. Section 13 of the report, which has been translated into Inuktitut, Cree and English, covers Northern Québec and was prepared jointly with the KEAC and JBACE.
Rapport d’enquête et d’audience publique (French only)
The KEAC advocates for sustainable development, the dissemination of information to the public and the organization of public consultations, in particular in the context of mineral exploration, mining and mine remediation projects. It has studied multiple bills to amend the Québec Mining Act. Overall, the KEAC believes that it is important to strengthen mining legislation.
MERN’s Aboriginal Community Consultation Policies
In February 2018, the KEAC commented on the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (energy and natural resources, MERN) working document entitled Aboriginal Community Consultation Policy for the Mining Sector. The letter questioned the policy’s applicability in Nunavik as it does not refer to the relevant consultation processes under the JBNQA and EQA. The committee also request the policy identify the regional entities that would be contacted in the event of a consultation in Nunavik.
In March 2018, the KEAC also commented on the MERN’s general Aboriginal Community Consultation Policy that applies to the ministry’s three business sectors: energy, mines and land. The letter states that although the document does state the policy does not replace treaties such as the JBNQA, the KEAC still requests information concerning the policy’s application in Nunavik. Furthermore, the KEAC requests that the MERN should clearly define their role and intended actions regarding consultation with the Inuit and Naskapi communities.
Hopes Advance mining project
Oceanic Iron Ore Corp undertook mineral exploration in the Aupaluk area with a view to building, operating and decommissioning an iron mine and its associated infrastructure. Concerned about the project’s potential environmental and social impacts, the KEAC visited the company’s temporary camps in June 2012. It also met with local and regional stakeholders in Aupaluk to find out about the state of local mineral exploration activities. The KEAC is concerned about the implications of several different environmental assessment procedures being applied to this project and continue to monitor the issue closely and raise its interests with the appropriate parties.
The Kativik Environmental Quality Commission and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency are reviewing this project:
The current state of the Asbestos Hill mine site (Purtuniq), operated from 1972 to 1984, is a preoccupation for the Inuit of Nunavik and the KEAC specifically due to continued erosion that is exposing mine tailings and previously buried materials on the site.
Abandoned mine sites
In 2012, the KEAC nominated the KRG for a Phénix de l’environnement award for its outstanding work in rehabilitating abandoned mineral exploration sites in Nunavik. That same year, the KRG won an award in the municipalities and municipal agencies category.
The Raglan mine operated by Glencore Group is located in northern Nunavik, about 50 km north of Parc national des Pingualuit, between the villages of Salluit and Kangiqsujuaq. During the MDDELCC’s public consultations in November 2010, the KEAC voiced concerns regarding the mine’s depollution attestation. As a result, the MDDELCC adjusted some sections of the attestation, including those pertaining to dust emissions and light pollution. These problems are in particular affecting the park.