Groups, governments weigh in on Nunavut gold project’s draft EIS

Critics want to see more traditional knowledge, Inuktitut and attention to caribou


Here's how the Meliadine camp looked in 2012. (PHOTO COURTESY OF AGNICO EAGLE)

Here’s how the Meliadine camp looked in 2012. (PHOTO COURTESY OF AGNICO EAGLE)

This map shows the location of the Meliadine gold mine project in Nunavut. (IMAGE COURTESY OF AGNICO EAGLE)

This map shows the location of the Meliadine gold mine project in Nunavut. (IMAGE COURTESY OF AGNICO EAGLE)

The draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.’s Meliadine gold mine project in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region “poorly” and “unclearly” incorporates traditional knowledge or Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, says Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., and the Kivalliq Inuit Association.

The KIA and NTI were among many groups and government departments that submitted information requests by June 6 to the Nunavut Impact Review Board about the Agnico Eagle’s draft EIS for the gold project, 24 kilometres from Rankin Inlet.

Agnico Eagle now has 30 days to respond to those requests.

Agnico Eagle Mines gave the NIRB its draft EIS for the project this past January and again in April.

The proposed Meliadine mine, to be connected to Rankin Inlet by an all-weather road, would operate for at least 13 years, based on the company’s current estimate of its gold deposits.

And it would be a gold mine of its own for jobs in the Kivalliq region: 1,000 workers to be hired on during the mine’s three-year construction period and about 700 workers during production, with about 350 workers on site at any given time.

Agnico Eagle plans to extract gold from a series of open pits and will mine one deposit using an underground shaft.

Then, an on-site mill will break ore into small particles so they can be rinsed with cyanide to remove the gold, which they’ll refine into gold bars to be transported to the South by air.

In their joint submission, the KIA and NTI were lukewarm about the draft EIS, citing a significant amount of duplication in the introduction section of the document, which was then repeated in most of the appendices, figures and supporting documents.

“This at times made it difficult to determine the accuracy of the interpretations and conclusions being drawn from the data,” their 38-page joint submission said.

The draft EIS also fell short in its sections dealing with caribou, the KIA and NTI said.

“There are several references to movement of large numbers of caribou through Rankin Inlet and the project area during [summer 2011], but none of this information was discussed… in the sections related to caribou,” said their joint submission.

It also pointed out that caribou may be present near the Meliadine project at any time of the year, and called for more mitigation plans.

“Caribou are considered the most important terrestrial species to community members,” the KIA and NTI said.

The draft EIS also doesn’t include adequate baseline data for raptors nesting within 10 km of the project, they noted.

The KIA and NTI called as well for more information about water quality and contaminants such as copper, cadmium and lead, discharge into Meliadine Lake, and more analysis about how community infrastructure and public services will cope with the mine’s presence.

For the Kangiqliniq Hunter’s and Trapper’s Organization, Meliadine’s potential environmental impacts “greatly outweighs the technical and financial resources places at its disposal to take part in the process.”

The HTO drew similarities between the Areva Resources Canada’s proposed Kiggavik uranium mine near Baker Lake and Meliadine when it comes to caribou and the impacts of roads, power lines, blasting, waste stockpiles and dust on the animals.

The HTO also said it’s worried about low-flying helicopters.

“Helicopter usage has not always avoided Inuit harvesters or stopped when caribou were migrating through, despite operating guidelines being in place,” its submission said.

And the HTO also wanted to know exactly how IQ has played a role in Agnico Eagle’s decision-making.

Its members moreover want to see more Inuktitut translation on sections throughout the draft EIS, instead of just as an overview at the beginning of the lengthy document.

“The summary nature of the translated draft EIS contents make it difficult, if not impossible, for the majority of KHTO members to take an in-depth look at issues of concern,” the HTO said.

The HTO also wants more information on: effective sewage treatment, on how the tailings storage may be affected by permafrost, additional consultation with the HTO on hunting, with a possible “no shooting zone,” and vehicle access on the all-weather road.

The HTO also asked the company to take community members’ drinking water and ice locations into consideration in its study of surface water quality.

The GN’s department of community and government services comments mainly focused on how the mine will affect community plans and zoning by-laws.

A review and update of the Rankin Inlet Community Plan will begin later in 2013 and be completed in 2014.

Agnico Eagle should participate in the public, council and workshops associated with the development of this plan, CGS said, while supporting the project proposal.

All submissions are available on the NIRB’s online public registry.

After answering the comments and receiving more direction from the NIRB, as part of its ongoing technical review of the project, Agnico Eagle will start on its final EIS, just one of the many steps yet to come in the regulatory process.

If all goes well, Agnico Eagle could receive its project certificate by mid-2014 and, if the company decides to move ahead with the project, it could start production in 2017.

As for the estimated cost of the proposed mine, Dale Coffin, Agnico Eagle’s corporate director of communications and public affairs, that will only be known after the feasibility study for the project, due at the end of 2014, is finished.

The company is expected to make a final construction decision on Meliadine after that.

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