Nunavut board says yes to Agnico Eagle’s Whale Tail gold mine
Following construction next year, open pit mine would start in 2019
Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd’s Whale Tail gold mine, an open-pit satellite operation on its Amaruq property about 65 kilometres from its existing mine at Meadowbank, should get a green light from government regulators, the Nunavut Impact Review Board said Nov. 6 in a final hearing report.
In doing so, the review board said they believe Agnico Eagle is able to run the operation in a way that protects the environment and the well-being of Nunavut residents.
But at the same time, they recommended 64 stringent terms and conditions to the federal and territorial governments, many aimed at reducing damage to the region’s migrating caribou population.
“Recognizing the critical importance of caribou to all Inuit in the region, the board has recommended that the project only be allowed to proceed to the regulatory stage if governed by very protective terms and conditions,” NIRB chairperson Elizabeth Copland said in the decision.
The recommended terms and conditions say that Agnico Eagle must:
• Work with the Government of Nunavut to measure the effects of the project and its 50-kilometre haul road to Meadowbank on caribou.
• Collect more information on caribou group sizes near the project.
• Work with the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization to ensure various pieces of infrastructure to allow for the safe passage of caribou and other wildlife.
Another condition reflects messages the Baker Lake HTO and the GN brought to the final hearing on the project in September 2016: access to affordable housing.
That one, number 61, requires Agnico Eagle to work with the GN and the Nunavut Housing Corp. on ways of helping Whale Tail employees pursue homeownership or find affordable housing.
That includes financial education.
“The proponent should provide access to financial literacy, financial planning, and personal budgeting as part of the regular life skills training and/or career path program,” the review board said.
At the final hearing, the Baker Lake HTO also said the community needs help with other types of municipal infrastructure, such as improving the sewage lagoon and installing culverts.
The company responded by saying that it is contributing to a $3 million community initiatives fund and is willing to collaborate with the HTO and the Hamlet of Baker Lake on “providing direct community benefits,” the review board report said.
Another is aimed at ensuring employees get timely health care.
“The proponent shall engage with the Government of Nunavut to develop a process to ensure that any conditions first treated at the mine site and requiring ongoing care is appropriately accommodated in a timely manner at community health centres as required,” the review board said.
And Agnico Eagle and the GN are required to form a subcommittee on health problems, such as sexually transmitted diseases.
That committee will also look at ways of treating and transporting workers who need medical care beyond what the company is able to provide at the mine site, and monitor the impact of the project on community health centres.
Agnico Eagle hopes to start construction at Whale Tail in early 2018 and start producing ore from the open pit by the end of that year.
The company would transport 9,000 to 12,000 tonnes of ore each day from Whale Tail to the Meadowbank site along a 65-km haul road, where it would be milled and transformed into gold bars that the company would ship out to buyers via aircraft.
During the construction phase at Whale Tail, Agnico Eagle would need up to 500 workers and during operations, 931 workers, divided into rotating shifts.
The Whale Tail project lies on Inuit-owned land. The company signed an Inuit impact and benefits agreement with the Kivalliq Inuit Association this past June at an event held in Baker Lake.
Through that deal, the company will pay the KIA a net smelter royalty of 1.4 per cent net and has already given the KIA a $6.5-million payment.
The company expects to receive all necessary permits and licences for Whale Tail by early 2018, when it hopes to start construction.
Right now, the mine would operate for three or four years, from 2019 to 2022, with closure activities between 2023 and 2029.
At the same time, Agnico Eagle’s exploration work at Amaruq continues to produce promising ore samples, ranging in quality from 7.3 to 20.6 grams of gold per tonne of ore.
Right now, the company estimates that the Amaruq property, of which Whale Tail is an important part, contains an indicated resource of 2.1 million ounces of gold.
Their existing mine at Meadowbank was expected to keep producing until the end of 2018, but in its third-quarter financial statement this past Oct. 26, the company said it is now looking at extending ore extraction at Meadowbank into 2019, and will provide more information on that by February 2018.
In any case, a startup at Whale Tail and more development at Amaruq, combined with the startup of the company’s Meliadine gold mine near Rankin Inlet in 2019, would likely extend the life of the company’s facilities at Meadowbank and create jobs and business opportunities in the region for many years.