Nunavut regulator begins technical review of Meliadine mine’s pipeline plans

“There remain several items of uncertainty which must be addressed”

Members of the public and other interested parties have until Sept. 25 to submit information requests to the Nunavut Impact Review Board regarding the saline effluent pipeline project being proposed for the Meliadine mine. (File photo)

By Dustin Patar

The Nunavut Impact Review Board says it’s ready to start the technical review of a mining company’s controversial plans to build a pipeline to carry effluent to nearby Melvin Bay

That follows a revised response to the board by Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. about the potential impacts of the proposed pipeline from its Meliadine mine.

In July, the NIRB determined that the mine’s initial response to their request for more information about the potential impacts of the proposed pipeline was insufficient.

“The Board has determined that the revised impact statement addendum submission meets the necessary requirements in order to initiate the technical review period,” said NIRB Executive Director Karen Costello in an August 27 letter to Jamie Quesnel, Agnico Eagle’s regional manager for permitting and regulatory affairs.

According to the letter, the technical review process is meant to provide a detailed review of the project’s impact and the quality of the information provided.

In May, the Kivalliq Inuit Association alongside Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Baker Lake and Issatik hunting and trapping associations all called for such a review, as the NTI said the proposed project is “a significant modification to the original project as previously assessed and approved by the NIRB.”

Among their concerns, and one echoed in recent NIRB submissions, is that the pipeline may impact local caribou populations and hunter’s access to them.

In her recent letter, Costello also advised Quesnel that “there remain several items of uncertainty which must be addressed.”

The first of those uncertainties focuses on an effluent discharge rate alternative.

Part of Agnico’s submission included an option to discharge up to 20,000 cubic metres of water a day, in comparison to the 800 cubic metres per day that was previously assessed.

While Agnico acknowledged in their submission that they had “not completed a full environmental and socio-economic assessment of this alternative” the NIRB board expects that such an assessment will be submitted.

The second uncertainty involves the treatment of an increased volume of saline effluent.

“As the volume of the proposed discharge under the current project proposal is considerably higher in scale than what was previously assessed, the Board expects that the associated treatment process would require to be scaled up appropriately,” stated the letter.

“The board expects that additional information on the treatment of the proposed discharge volumes will be provided.”

Agnico Eagle will have to respond to these and other requests submitted by the public and interested parties in their information request response package.

For those interested in submitting an information request, more information can be found here and once complete can be sent via email to the NIRB.

The deadline for information requests is Sept. 25.

Following several rounds of exchanges and reviews between the NIRB and Agnico Eagle, a technical meeting, community roundtable and pre-hearing conference is currently slated to be held between November 23 and 26.

A full list of the anticipated process can be found on the NIRB registry.

Saline spill reported

On Aug. 31, four days after the NIRB letter advising of the beginning of the technical review, the Meliadine mine reported a saline spill.

The discharge of water was immediately suspended.

In a Sept. 2 news release, Agnico Eagle advised the public that up to 11,000 cubic metres of water, the equivalent of approximately 305 tanker trucks, with levels of total suspended solids that exceeded regulations, had been discharged into Melvin Bay.

“Total Suspended Solids in water consist of suspended particles such as dust and soil, as well as organisms such as plankton and algae,” said the release.

“At this time, it is believed that the exceedance is largely due to algae developing in the pond used to hold treated water before it is being trucked to Itivia to be discharged.”

They stated that the discharge of water was immediately suspended and that they had reported the spill the Government of Nunavut, the Nunavut Water Board and the Nunavut Impact Review Board, among others.

A second release issued two days afterwards stated that “the amount of non-compliant water discharged is significantly less than originally reported.”

Despite this, discharge activities remain suspended while investigations continue.

Those with questions can visit Agnico Eagle’s website, send them an email or call them at 1-844-323-3002.

Update

While the NIRB did receive a notice of the total suspended solids exceedance on Aug. 31, as of Sept. 10, they have yet to receive any follow-up report.

Correction

An earlier version of this story said that the proposed pipeline would carry effluent to a nearby lake, when in fact it would carry effluent to Melvin Bay. We regret the mistake.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Nu res on

    Mines love “accidents”. They would rather pay the fine then protect the environment and it’s people. Cheaper in the long run for the mine.

    • Posted by Justin on

      That’s not true and sad to hear that. I’ve worked in the mining industry all my life. While accidents do happen, it is certainly not cheaper to pay the fine. Any accident can lead to much more serious consequences and if you want to talk financial – nothing is more of a financial punishment than having your permit or license to operate be revoked for being irresponsible. This has happened and believe me – it isn’t pretty, since it basically shuts down everything, and everyone – from truck drivers on site right up to the CEO lose their jobs.

      As well – mining companies spend a lot of time, money and effort on doing things responsibly and to protect the environment. Every company I have worked for not only meets requirements but exceeds them. But yes, accidents can and do happen. Mining is incredibly complex and contains multiple risk factors. It is constantly doing it’s best to innovate, improve and be better. It is not some inherently evil industry looking to destroy land for profit. It doesn’t make sense from a humanitarian standpoint, and it actually doesn’t make good business sense either. You lose money over time doing it that way, not make more. It’s a lazy argument.

      But industrial resources has made Canada the country it is today. Without it, we are a 3rd world country. Yet it never ceases to amaze me that if a stadium, arena, or shopping mall is proposed…people get excited. Yet those places employe way less people, and the ones they do employ are minimum wage jobs….they have a bigger carbon footprint per square foot than any mine, yet they are not required to submit closure plans, restoration plans, etc… and everyone is happy because it is something “cool”. I wish people would take the time to educate themselves and learn who and what to truly shake their finger at!

      • Posted by Nu res on

        Yes, earth is flat and we are the middle of the universe, laughable that you believe a billion dollar corporation.

      • Posted by Morning Wood on

        Interesting insights, Justin. A note on some of the surrounding commentary; a problem with social media today, which is a toxic cesspool at times, is people who know almost nothing about any given topic are empowered to create the kind of facile byte sized analysis we see here. For example; “corporations bad”. People are receptive because simplicity is digestible and these statements confirm lazily held biases. Nuance and complexity are hard, regardless of how much more accurately they track reality.

      • Posted by Caribou Expert on

        Actually Justin, it is true in context. AEM has to get rid of that water or they have to stop mining in tigriniaq pit 2, they were already filling up rampantly and were at risk of being fully booked for saline water, in addition to their CP-1/Meliadine Lake problems with “surface water” that is apparently contaminated with saline effluent. If AEM has to shut down pit #2 the consequences will be grave and the fine will come from more then one side (i.e: class action lawsuit and ECCC enforcement) Obviously, cheaper just to pay ECCC which has a small maximum for a big corp like AEM and apologize, promise you installed new instrumentation (like Mr. Langevin said this week) and swear by god you’ll do daily water samples. Like I said, consequences are very severe here and stakes are enormously high.

        Cheers.

  2. Posted by Observer on

    “to build a pipeline to carry effluent to a nearby lake.”
    .
    The nearby lake is better known as Hudson Bay. Also, it’s not a lake.

  3. Posted by Caribou Expert on

    “The discharge of water was immediately suspended.”

    Are you sure? The mine is only allowed to discharge 1,600 m3 per day of water which should mean AEM did not catch on there was out of compliance for closer to 8-10 days based on their 11,000 m3 spill estimate – which they later suggested was determined to be “only” 8000 m3/day. Still, one week of discharge.

    Based on the info available, I think the mine did not catch the spill quickly; I also think it’s why they are now doing daily water tests on TSS.

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