Nunavut regulators call for public review of mining company’s pipeline plans
Agnico Eagle’s proposal is “a significant modification to the project as previously assessed”
Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.’s proposal to install two 40-kilometre-long pipes to discharge salty water near Rankin Inlet will be subject to a public environmental assessment, the Nunavut Impact Review Board has determined.
The NIRB said a request by Agnico Eagle to discharge the saline effluent from its Meliadine gold mine into Melvin Bay near Rankin Inlet needs “a reconsideration of the terms and conditions of Project Certificate No. 006.”
“Where the NIRB has established that terms and conditions within a project certificate require reconsideration, the board initiates a public review of the application in accordance with the NIRB’s rules of procedure,” said NIRB Chair Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq in a July 9 letter to Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal and Jamie Quesnel, Agnico Eagle’s regional manager for permitting and regulatory affairs.
The NIRB said Agnico Eagle maintained the “changes proposed did not constitute significant modifications to the approved project, and any impacts associated with these changes could be effectively mitigated without requiring changes.”
But the NIRB said members of the public, Inuit organizations and regulatory authorities agreed that the scale and scope of activities proposed in the “Saline Effluent Discharge to Marine Environment” represented “a significant modification to the project as previously assessed.”
In April, Agnico Eagle had submitted two proposals to the NIRB—its “2020 Saline Discharge Strategy” proposal and the “Saline Effluent Discharge to Marine Environment” proposal.
Agnico Eagle said it wanted to stop trucking effluent from its Meliadine gold mine to the coast and instead lay down about 40 km of double pipes to carry salty water from the mine to Melvin Bay.
The Kivalliq Inuit Association said, among other critical comments, that the COVID-19 pandemic created “unique and important concerns” with the proposed water pipes, particularly during the construction phase that was to be scheduled to begin in August 2020, if the proposal received approval.
In its recent letter, the NIRB said “it is not realistic” for Agnico Eagle to plan for construction activities to begin in August 2020.
The NIRB suggested that Agnico Eagle provide alternative construction schedule scenarios in its proposal’s future impact statement.
The NIRB asked the federal government to approve participant funding so the various parties could participate in the future assessment, but said it couldn’t provide more details about the process because of meeting and travel restrictions due to COVID-19.
“Given the public health directions and the aspect of uncertainty that the pandemic places on the scheduling of public events into the future, the board recognizes that it is not appropriate to set out a precise process for the reconsideration at this time,” the review board said.
You can find documentation about the company’s Saline Effluent Discharge to Marine Environment Project Proposal on the NIRB’s online public registry.