Agnico Eagle’s water pipeline plans scrutinized at community roundtable

Suzanne Leclair, Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.’s Indigenous relations lead, speaks Thursday at the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s community roundtable on the company’s proposed two 34-kilometre water lines that will transfer up to 12,000 cubic metres per day. (Screenshot from NIRB hearing/Zoom)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Updated at 3:20 p.m.

A community roundtable wraps up Friday on a mining company’s plans to build pipelines north of Rankin Inlet to pump salty water into a nearby bay.

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. wants to build a pair of 34-kilometre pipelines from Meliadine mine to Melvin Bay, located in Hudson Bay, to dispose of saline groundwater from the underground mine and potentially contact water collected at site. The company is currently trucking this effluent to the bay.

The company says it expects the amount of salt water being released into the bay to increase seven-fold by 2022, to 12,000 litres per day, up from 1,600 cubic metres per day. That is comparable to 40 1,400 square-foot, three-bedroom houses filled with ocean-like water being dumped into the bay every day.

Without the water pipes, truck traffic to transport the treated water would increase to 300 trucks per day, from 40 trucks a day now, according to the company’s presentation slides.

During question period, company representatives said there would be a 100-metre designated offloading area in Melvin Bay, and that they do not expect it to harm marine life.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board meeting heard concerns from Inuit that mining in the area could be harming wildlife.

Chesterfield Inlet councillor Leonie Mimialik told the meeting on Thursday she has seen fish caught with no scales and un-harvestable caribou over the last year.

“That’s our food,” Mimialik said. “This is our land. It is not anybody else’s land.”

Suzanne Leclair, Agnico Eagle’s Indigenous relations lead, said the company consulted Inuit on the project in March and July 2020, and received nearly 400 comments.

Leclair said the company used Inuit traditional knowledge, as well as science, to draft mitigation plans, such as a detection system for leaks in the waterline.

Levinia Brown, a former mayor of Rankin Inlet and former territorial cabinet minister, said she was pleased to hear that there will be two smaller pipelines rather than one bigger one, and that they will be mostly covered or buried — a result of Inuit and the company working together.

The company has also committed to a long-term adaptive management plan, a toll-free number for residents to report problems, and to taking the pipeline apart and restoring the landscape when the mine is finished.

Still, some residents, including Brown, expressed concern that the noise and vibrations of rushing water through the pipeline will scare caribou away from the area.

She shared a story of when she went hunting near the Meliadine mine and saw a herd of caribou coming towards her. She said nearby, there was a group of construction workers with heavy machinery who didn’t see the caribou, and the herd didn’t pass. She said there were no monitors and no adaptive management.

“I see our land being damaged,” Brown said.

Her story, though, ended in a more hopeful tone.

“When there’s [damage] or impacts, we have to discuss it. Don’t point fingers. Don’t put others down,” she said.

Agnico Eagle staff said the pipeline wouldn’t be built during migration season, and 80 to 90 per cent of the pipelines will be covered or buried to reduce noise and vibrations. There will be designated crossing structures to allow caribou to pass the pipes and adjacent road, and the company will have noise monitoring systems in place.

Correction

This story has been updated to describe this week’s meetings as a community roundtable. It’s also been updated to specify that the effluent is from saline groundwater from the underground mine and potentially contact water collected at site.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by pissed off on

    let me get this right!!
    The headline talks about rainwater and melting snow. How does this become salty water ?
    Mme Leclair says that consultations took place in 2020 and 400 comments were received yet the hamlet councillor from “ Chesterfield Inlet “ gets to comment on this with opposition.

    12000 liters per days = 40 houses = 300 liters per house which is 75 gals. ????????

    12,000 liters per day is about 1 water truck load per day not 400 truckloads.

    What a shabby reporting!!!!!!!!

    Please guys , get your s…..t together before you publish something or go to the barricades complaining.

    Thanks

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    • Posted by Monderators on

      Shabby reporting to say the least.

      “increase seven-fold by 2022, to 12,000 litres per day, up from 1,600 cubic metres per day”. 1,600 cubic metres per day is 1.6 million liters per day. Does this mean 12,000 cubic metres was meant rather than 12,000 liters?

    • Posted by Chris on

      Clarification, Agnico Eagle is trying to rush through two separate proposals for two different water problems.

      i) Nunavut Water Borad: AEM wants to discharge the ‘rainwater and snowmelt’ (that happens to also be contimated with saline water) into Meliadine Lake. This water is lower in TDS and not considered saline but brackish.

      ii) Nunavut Impact Review Board: AEM wants to send between 12,000-20,000 cubic meteres per day of saline water from underground the mine to Melvin Bay by pipeline. This water would destroy Meliadine Lake and cannot be mixed. AEM’s on-site water treatment failed so they decided to try to build a pipeline.

      Rankin Inlet people are rightfully confused by the two procedures which are being deliberately attempted at the same time.

      But please note, these are two separate issues and two different Boards.

      I hope more locals become aware and get involved.

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  2. Posted by Monderators on

    I believe it has gotten to a point where a 3rd party is required to communicate on behalf of both Agnico Eagle and Rankin Inlet HTO. This 3rd party should be given access to information to information being presented to the public and the same 3rd party hear HTO’s concerns. AEM and HTO saying the opposite of each other is getting old, Inuit and Inuit land, animals on the land are the one paying the price of the HTO’s incompetents and Agnico Eagle’s confidence of not causing any harm to anyone or anything.

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  3. Posted by josywales on

    Wondering what the salt content of the water being pumped is? Is it salter or not?
    If more salter than the natural ocean water, there could be problems with marine life being able to handle it or not.

    • Posted by Chris on

      Guita, AEM’s saline effluent to Melvin Bay will be around 55,000 mg/L (TDS) while Melvin Bay is around 30,000 mg/L naturally. So AEM’s saline effluent is much higher in salinity than the receiving waters of Melvin Bay.

    • Posted by Chemist on

      It’s more complicated than “more salty or less salty”.
      .
      It depends on what types of salts are involved. Sodium cloride is common table salt and also the main saly in sea water. But there are lots of other types of salts. They can contain all sorts of nasty chemicals such as arsenic and bromine.

  4. Posted by Guita on

    Agnico Eagle has produced very positive researches done. I would like to see independent researches done too.

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  5. Posted by monty sling on

    It is futile to try to curb ae operations, as long as the mining companies go to bed with RIOs in each region; communities cannot do anything about it. These hearings are just formalities for the internation environmental groups to stay at bay to companies operations in nunavut.

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