Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut April 13, 2017 - 1:10 pm

Blizzard stalls Nunavut mine fuel spill clean-up

Agnico Eagle still investigating cause of the 30,000 litre spill

A driver backs up the scoop, one of the heavy equipment machines used to transport rock from Meliadine's underground pit. (FILE PHOTO)
A driver backs up the scoop, one of the heavy equipment machines used to transport rock from Meliadine's underground pit. (FILE PHOTO)

(Updated, 4:30 p.m., April 14)

Efforts to clean up a major fuel spill at the Meliadine gold mine project site outside Rankin Inlet stalled this week for two days as a blizzard blew through parts of the Kivalliq region.

But the mine’s owners, Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., said April 14 that clean-up operations had resumed.

Agnico Eagle said April 8 spill, the April 8 spill was caused by a leak from a hose attached to 100,000-litre diesel storage tanks.

But the company also said it will continue to investigate to find “the root cause” of the leak.

Preliminary findings from the investigation, released April 14, indicate that the spill occurred due to a defective safety valve on the storage tank, as well as to “inadequate operating procedures and insufficient training.”

“Agnico Eagle has begun implementing corrective measures,” the release said.

Agnico Eagle, which also operates the Meadowbank gold mine northwest Baker Lake, said the leak was stopped and the estimated 30,000 litres of spilled fuel had been contained.

Monitoring and cleanup activities continue and Agnico Eagle said it expected to complete all remaining cleanup work in the coming week.

Crews began to excavate the area last weekend, but heavy winds and snows halted those efforts April 11 as schools, government offices and businesses shut down for the day in Rankin Inlet, about 23 kilometres away.

“Our clean-up efforts were on standby due to a blizzard,” Angico Eagle spokeswoman Natalie Frackleton said April 12. “We’re still waiting to re-start the equipment.”

The mining company said it has notified the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and the Kivalliq Inuit Association—which manages the mine site’s Inuit-owned lands as well as the Inuit Impact Benefits Agreement between Inuit and Agnico Eagle.

But neither INAC nor KIA responded to requests for information from Nunatsiaq News.

Agnico Eagle said there is no evidence so far that the fuel spill reached any fresh water source on the Meliadine site, which sits on the shore of Meliadine Lake.

Although the mine site is connected to Rankin Inlet by a 23-km road, the community’s mayor, Robert Janes, said the hamlet has not been involved with the spill, and doesn’t expect to be.

Agnico Eagle recently announced plans to move ahead on its Meliadine project, which will be its second gold mine in the territory.

The company said in February that it plans to invest $900 million over the next three years to bring Meliadine into commercial production by 2019, along with a new deposit at its nearby Meadowbank gold mine.

The company estimates Meliadine’s lifespan at 14 years, during which time it expects to produce at least 5.3 million ounces of gold.

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