Meadowbank glitch suddenly gone
Massive gold mine proposal lumbers forward
A bureaucratic glitch that delayed the Meadowbank gold mine project for three months vanished suddenly last week, just after Nunatsiaq News went to press.
Cumberland Resources Ltd., a small Vancouver mining company, is now ready to move aggressively on the development of a $200-million mine at the site, about 70 km north of Baker Lake.
A key company document, called a “project description report,” was stuck at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Iqaluit. DFO was supposed to send it to the Nunavut Planning Commission, which in turn was supposed to send it to the Nunavut Water Board, which in turn was expected to refer it to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
That glitch was preventing the company from starting work on its environmental and regulatory obligations.
When contacted last week, an official with DFO told Nunatsiaq News that the two people familiar with the file were not at work, and that he couldn’t comment on the issue.
But last Wednesday, just as a story on the issue was being printed, Craig Goodings, a consultant working with Cumberland on the Meadowbank project, said DFO had sent the document to the NPC, which has referred the proposal to the NIRB.
That means an official environmental screening can finally begin.
“It took only three to four months to complete what should have taken a couple of weeks, but I am happy we have made it to the NIRB process,” Goodings said in an e-mail.
Under the NIRB’s own guidelines for developers, the preliminary process that has just finished should have taken three weeks at the most.
The next stage should take 44 weeks. The company will prepare a draft environmental impact statement, and a long list of organizations, government departments and management boards will be asked to read the draft EIS and comment on it. Public hearings would likely be held during this stage as well.
If the proposal makes it through all that, the NIRB will give Cumberland a certificate for the mine.
Then the company can go ahead with applications for various permits and licences, including a water licence.
Cumberland says there is enough gold at Meadowbank – at least 3.5 million ounces and probably more – to keep the mine going for at least 10 years.
The company estimates it will employ 250 fly-in, fly-out workers to operate the mine, though it’s unclear right now how many could come from Baker Lake and other Nunavut communities.
But officials say the company will generate $4.2 million a year in direct wages, and $2.9 million in indirect wages paid to people working in spin-off businesses.
They also estimate spending $11.3 million a year on fuel, $1 million a year on road maintenance, $2.2 million a year on catering, $4.1 million a year on equipment supply and $4.5 million a year on freight.
The company hopes to pour its first gold bars by 2006.