Agnico Eagle seeks second site for effluent from Nunavut mine
Ocean discharge plan needs screening, NIRB says
Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. is looking for a green light from Nunavut’s environmental regulatory bodies to pump treated effluent from an underground site at its Meliadine gold mine project into the ocean, via Melvin Bay, in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region.
But the Nunavut Impact Review Board said Jan. 26 that it needs more information first.
The mining company’s existing project certificate for Meliadine—approved by the NIRB in 2015—allows discharge of groundwater from mining operations at its underground Tirganiaq mine into Meliadine Lake.
Groundwater is a product of digging done below the permafrost.
But a project proposal submitted in December to the Nunavut Planning Commission by Agnico Eagle says that lake, which is north of Rankin Inlet, won’t be big enough.
“Based on the potential volumes of groundwater, it is anticipated that a second discharge location will be required,” the document states.
“Agnico Eagle is proposing to treat groundwater and discharge it as saline effluent to the ocean.”
The company wants to truck the effluent along an access road that leads to Itivia Harbour by Melvin Bay. A new disposal facility also proposed for that location would include water-storage tanks, a pipeline and a diffuser to discharge the saline effluent into the ocean in a controlled manner.
“[This would] allow for maximum dilution and minimum environmental impact to the marine environment,” Agnico Eagle said.
But the Nunavut Planning Commission said that the approval lies outside its scope, and forwarded the discharge proposal to the NIRB for additional screening.
“The NPC has determined that the above-noted project proposal is a significant modification to the project because of the change in location for the discharge of saline effluent and the revised method of treatment,” Peter Scholz of the planning commission wrote in a Jan. 5 letter to the NIRB.
“The project proposal requires screening by the NIRB […] because it is for a component or activity that was not part of the original or previously amended proposal.”
In a recent letter to Agnico Eagle’s environmental superintendent, Jamie Quesnel, NIRB technical advisor Shanley Thomas acknowledged that the mining company has already shown that it is aware of the required amendment process.
“Agnico Eagle has indicated its understanding that an amendment to the terms and conditions of the project certificate for the Meliadine Gold Mine Project would be required to support the proposed works or activities, and also that an amendment to the Meliadine Mine Type “A” Water Licence from the Nunavut Water Board will be sought,” Thomas wrote.
In order to move ahead, the NIRB is asking Agnico Eagle to provide the following information by Feb. 15:
• Clarify how much discharge will be directed to each body of water.
• Explain if and how treatment plans differ for water to be discharged to Meliadine Lake versus into Melvin Bay.
• Provide the number of daily transits made by water trucks along the all-weather access road that leads to Itivia Harbour.
• Explain and support reasons for the amendments.
• Indicate what terms in its project certificate will need to be modified.
• Explain what new monitoring and mitigation programs could be needed for safety of the environment.
• Summarize what consultation has been done with the public and what consultation is planned.
Agnico Eagle’s proposal to the NPC can be found below.
There are two other open-pit mines at the Tirganiaq Deposit, but they are not affected by the new proposal.