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Nanisivik Mines urged to take action

Report cites leeching waste, dust as threats to Strathcona Sound



A consultant hired by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association says Nanisivik Mines Ltd. can and should take immediate steps to reduce air and water contamination in Strathcona Sound.

J. Don Scott, a professor of environmental engineering with the University of Alberta, has also recommended more studies to find out if local people and animals have ingested heavy metals, and if that has affected them.

Hired by the Inuit association to review the mining company’s water-license application, Scott delivered his report last week, prompting calls for a full-fledged environmental investigation.

“Observations by local inhabitants suggest that there may be a possibility of these heavy metals entering the food chain,” the report says, “therefore the effect on humans, large and small animals and on fish requires evaluation by toxicologists and animals and fish biologists.”

Freeze water license

QIA has asked the Nunavut Water Board not to re-issue the company a long-term water license until “uncertainties regarding environmental practices at the mine are cleared up.”

In his report, Scott points to two main problems at the Nanisivik operation that are aggravating the level of heavy-metal contamination in and near Strathcona Sound.

First, the poor storage of fine-dust tailings promotes dusty conditions at certain times of the year. The dust is believed to contain residual concentrations of iron, lead and zinc.

Tailings are a byproduct of the ore-refining and extraction process.

Scott says Nanisivik Mines could best take care of the dust by first taking steps to stabilize the surface tailings.

“There is currently considerable technical knowledge available on this area, which if necessary, can be augmented by tests and trials at the site,” he states in the report.

Acid drainage problem

Second, melted rain and snow wash heavy metals leeching from waste rock used as roadbed material into the Twin Lake Creek, which in turn drains into Strathcona Sound. The leeched metals are contributing to the acidification of the water system, Scott says.

“As short-term acid drainage is an issue of immediate concern, it is recommended that acid drainage be collected and treated.”

The intervention by QIA is just one of many submissions the Water Board must consider before it rules on Nanisivik Mine’s license application this spring.

Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans also expressed concerns about the mining operation during public hearings last September.

However, “no one but QIA has requested a delay or postponement of the water license,” said Philippe Dipizzo, the water boards executive director.

Nanisivik Mines Ltd. was granted a temporary water license last fall until the water board issues its final decision. The company is seeking renewal of a five-year license.

The water board has the power to impose terms and conditions on any license it grants and Dipizzo said “we intend to do that if we renew the license, of course.”

Stephen Kakfwi, the GNWT’s minister of renewable resources, wildlife and economic development, still hasn’t responded to QIA’s demand for a formal environmental investigation of the mine.

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