Concern grows over mine impact on caribou

WebPosted May 2, 2003 10:37 AM (CDT)

YELLOWKNIFE - Elders and biologists say diamond mines and the activity surrounding them are having an impact on the N.W.T.'s caribou herds. Both First Nations and territorial government experts say mining is changing where caribou go and how they behave.

A map of the caribou migration routes is covered in lines indicating their regular paths

The public hearings on the Snap Lake diamond project were all about caribou on Thursday.

A map showing caribou migration patterns northeast of Yellowknife is a dense mass of lines – caribou move everywhere.

De Beers is predicting a mine at Snap Lake will change a only fraction of caribou habitat. The company argues its project is small compared to the area caribou roam.

But traditional knowledge is already documenting changes in caribou movement because of mining.

"Quoted from a elder, in a few years, the caribou will change their route again, they will go a different way," said Florence Catholique, who spoke on behalf of the community of Lutselk'e. "They will be disturbed by the winter road, planes and blasting."

Anne Gunn, the territorial government's senior caribou biologist, is also concerned about the effect of a third mine on the summer range of the Bathurst caribou herd.

She wants De Beers to spell out how it's going to mitigate the impact of the mine.

Gunn quotes from the company's list of mitigation measures.

"It just simply states, for example, the use of trucks on the haul road will be minimized. The GNWT doesn't draw a great deal of comfort from what that statement really means," she said.

De Beers expressed some skepticism that the mines are solely responsible for the changes in caribou movement.

But the company said it would take part in studies on cumulative effects.

Story reposted from the CBC North News website at: