Nunavut regulator approves mine water release into lake near Rankin Inlet

“Our objective is to protect the aquatic environment of Meliadine Lake, as well as the integrity of our infrastructures, to ensure the safest operations”

This illustration of Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.’s Meliadine gold mine shows the location of the containment pond and Meliadine Lake, into which the mining company plans to release water. (Image courtesy of Agnico Eagle)

By Jane George

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. has received the green light from the Nunavut Water Board to release water from a containment pond at the Meliadine gold mine into a nearby Lake.

This required an emergency amendment to Meliadine’s water licence, which Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal approved on May 12, Agnico Eagle said in a statement emailed on May 14 to Nunatsiaq News.

Agnico Eagle said it would keep the nearby community of Rankin Inlet informed on the progress of the  discharges and the current water quality conditions in Meliadine Lake.

The company said it would also provide results from the water-quality monitoring during the emergency discharges.

As well, Agnico Eagle said it is setting up a water management working group. This group will include a team of experts, with government and Kivalliq Inuit Association representatives, who will discuss the monitoring of the discharge from the containment pond.

Agnico Eagle has also set up a bilingual website, which has a section with questions and answers on the planned discharges of water into the lake.

The request to release water into Meliadine Lake had received some pushback from the KIA because, as an emergency application, it would not involve a public meeting. And there was also some confusion about the nature of the released water, which is not saline, but runoff from around the mine site.

The amendment allows for a time-limited discharge of water from April 29 to Oct. 31, from Containment Pond 1 to Meliadine Lake through the Meliadine Lake outfall diffuser.

But the discharged water won’t exceed the maximum average concentration of 3,500 mg/L for total dissolved mineral concentration solids, or TDS, Agnico Eagle said.

And the water will be treated before being released into Meliadine Lake.

The activities approved under this amendment do not include changes to the management and discharge of saline groundwater into the marine environment. That’s the subject of other proposals to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

“It is important to note that this water is not saline, nor is it process water. It is water that is collected on site from rain and snow melt that gets in contact with surface infrastructure,” Agnico Eagle said.

“The water quality downstream of the diffuser is expected to be drinkable and the quality of the water is not affected by TDS. In fact, the drinking water on site is not treated for TDS particles,” the company said in its Q & A on the discharges.

Analysis and monitoring on Meliadine Lake will be done to confirm that there are no environmental effects during and after the discharge.

“We remain committed to being transparent and to keeping our stakeholders informed as the process continues to evolve. We truly understand the importance of Meliadine Lake and the river system to Rankinmiut as a source for fishing and food, and we have the Kivalliq land and its residents at heart,” the company statement to Nunatsiaq News said.

“This is why we take great care to ensure that our operations do not result in harm to those water bodies. Given the current situation, our objective is to protect the aquatic environment of Meliadine Lake, as well as the integrity of our infrastructures, to ensure the safest operations.”

Preparations are underway to begin discharging water once the spring thaw begins later in May.

Right now, the containment pond is nearly full and will not be able to accept the upcoming freshet.

That’s why, instead of going through the regular amendment process, which typically takes nine to 12 months, Agnico Eagle said it requested an emergency amendment to its water licence from the water board to discharge the accumulated water for 2020 only.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Chris on

    Not a good thing when a company like Agnico Eagle can circumvent the Nunavut Impact Review Board process with the help of a friend in Ottawa. AEM did not tell the truth about how TDS got so high in the containment pond, yet they still got their way against the will of all parties who responded to NIRB request for comments. AEM appears to be above the law. That is a really bad thing for Rankinmiut.

  2. Posted by Suqaima on

    The hamlet of Rankin Inlet l, council and mayor with partners have made a good compromise. They want jobs and families fed with jobs provided by the mines. There are lots of positive outcomes for people who didn’t have skills getting jobs from this mine and moving into other jobs.
    The Inuit are smart enough on their own to be part of major decisions. Most can understand English now. The mayor of Rankin inlet is proactive and cares for jobs and opportunities that come to his town.

  3. Posted by Sam on

    Chris,friends in Ottawa,who is AEM friends in Ottawa be more specific,rather than spout off ,

    • Posted by Chris on

      Sam, without seeing the disclosure, the article says the Northern Affairs minister gave the company permission. Their “friend” in Ottawa seemingly would be Dan Vandal, who is the Minister of Northern Affairs. Perhaps a couple guys at the NWB are the other two who supported Agnico Eagle’s motion to circumvent the process which met unanimous opposition from respondents. Allowing Agnico Eagle to dump their out-of-compliance water is giving them a get out of jail for free card. Truly shameful, in my view. Again, I have not seen the documentation as nothing is posted on NIRB registry. I know nothing but what I read on Nunatsiaq News and Nunavut News.

  4. Posted by Tommy on

    The people were irrelevant in this decision. The RIO’s and the governments decide supposedly in the best interest of Nunavummiut when it comes to mining development. High stakes are debated at high levels, people just pick up the pieces after the ink. Sounds familiar?

    • Posted by Chris on

      Tommy, it seems like it because the amendment saw unanimous opposition and mostly strongly worded. Can Nunatsiaq News provide us with additional information from the decision? Was the NIRB involved?

  5. Posted by Historian on

    There was an incident, about 10 years ago, where the Nunavut Water Board stood up and said NO to a mining “request”.
    .
    All members of that Water Board were replaced and the mine received the approval it sought.

  6. Posted by Chemistry on

    “And there was also some confusion about the nature of the released water, which is not saline, but runoff from around the mine site.”

    We are being told that it is not seawater. But what are those Disolved Solids that are being picked up around the mine site? Why have they not provided a chemical analysis of the water’s contaminants? Elsewhere it is refered to as “salt water”. In chemistry, a salt is a chemical compound consisting of an ionic assembly of cations and anions.

    Sodium cloride, also known as table salt, is a well known one. In small qualtities it is essential for the life of most animals. At high enough concentrations it will kill just about anything. That’s why salt fish will keep almost forever. Nothing can grow on it.

    Potasium cyanide is another salt. But it is poisonous at even very low concentrations. And cyanide is often used in the extraction of gold.

    The rainwater and snowmelt washes the minesite. Makes for a cleaner minesite. But the contamination will go to the lake and the fish and the people down stream.

    What contaminants, and at what concentrations? And why is no one asking?

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