A proposal by the Husky energy company to drill for silica sand west of Yellowknife will receive an environmental assessment.

Husky wants to drill for the sand in the area of Chedabucto Lake and Whitebeach Point, on the North Arm of Great Slave Lake.

The sand is used in the fracking process, though fracking itself is not involved in this project.

The Wek’èezhìi Land and Water Board, which received Husky’s proposal, has decided it “might be a cause of public concern”, particularly regarding the cultural value of Whitebeach Point to the local community.

Husky’s plans have been referred for an environmental assessment to be conducted by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board.

Read: Full decision regarding Husky’s drilling proposals (pdf)

“The public concern is widespread, having been voiced by the Tłı̨chǫ Government, Yellowknifes Dene First Nation and North Slave Métis Alliance, as well as non-governmental organizations and individuals from the general public,” reads the Wek’èezhìi Land and Water Board’s decision, issued on Friday, February 13.

“Mitigation of the direct environmental impacts of Husky’s proposed activities could, in the board’s opinion, likely occur, but substantial concern exists due to both the potential for impacts and the cultural, traditional, spiritual, and recreational value of the Whitebeach Point area in and of itself.

“The board acknowledges that the direct environmental impacts of the proposed development appear to be relatively straightforward and, therefore, suggests that the focus of the environmental assessment should be on concerns related to traditional knowledge and the cultural value of the Whitebeach Point area.”

In a letter to the board from the Tłı̨chǫ Government, elder Harry Apples said: “Elders before this time went there to hunt, trap, and fish. The Tłı̨chǫ still use the area today. The Tłı̨chǫ want to protect this land.

“Other people should ask for permission to explore and use the area, out of respect for the Tłı̨chǫ and the history of the place.”

Husky had been intending to drill in March and April this year.

The company had earlier said it was in the “very early stages of evaluating potential sources of silica sand”, adding the Whitebeach Point area was one of “several potential sites we are considering”.