Proposed Meliadine mine extension to be assessed
Wind turbines and airstrip’s potential impact on wildlife, caribou migrations concern for regional organizations
A proposal by Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. to extend the life of the Meliadine gold mine near Rankin Inlet by adding wind turbines, underground mining and possibly an airstrip requires more assessment, the Nunavut Impact Review Board says.
The board issued a notice June 22 saying it intends to do an assessment, termed a reconsideration, on the mine’s proposed extension. The assessment will likely require terms and conditions on the mine’s original licence to be modified, since the proposal presents significant changes.
NIRB’s reconsideration comes after several government and regional organizations stated the proposed extension is not part of what was agreed upon in 2015 when certifying the mine, which became operational in 2017.
The potential impact of an 11-year mine life extension on nearby wildlife and caribou migrations specifically was mentioned by regional organizations, such as the Kivalliq Inuit Association and Kangiqliniq Hunters and Trappers Organization, as well as the Government of Nunavut.
On April 14, Agnico Eagle submitted its proposal to NIRB to add an extension to the Meliadine mine, an open pit goldmine 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet. On May 24, NIRB asked the public for comments on Agnico Eagle’s proposal.
The extension proposal includes significant changes to the mine. Agnico Eagle is proposing underground mining in three open pit areas of the site, and a pathway to connect two underground mining sites is also proposed.
Underground mining is usually done to access ore that is farther below the surface. Open pit mining typically uses more heavy machinery, since it is on an open surface, unlike underground mining.
Outside of actual mining, Agnico Eagle is proposing 11 wind turbines be built for renewable energy north of the mine, as well as the option for the company to build an airstrip near the mine.
Initially, the turbines would supplement production of the mine’s the diesel-powered facility. In its proposal, Agnico Eagle said the wind turbine would produce 46.2 megawatts of installed power when operating at 100 per cent efficiency, meeting the mine’s power needs.
The airstrip would not be built any time soon, Agnico Eagle stated in its proposal.
Sonja Galton, a spokesperson for Agnico Eagle, told Nunatsiaq News the company will not be responding publicly regarding its proposed Meliadine mine expansion, to respect NIRB’s process and the regional bodies involved.
In its reconsideration, NIRB will review technical requirements, as well as include public consultation and potentially a public hearing.
The company also stated the extension would prolong the life cycle of the mine from 2032 to 2043.
The certificate for the Meliadine mine to operate, initially approved in 2015, had more than 100 terms and conditions, including wildlife and environmental impacts.
This proposal is more significant than any previous amendment to the mine, KIA director of lands Luis Manzo wrote to NIRB, adding an assessment is needed.
The proposed changes he listed include wind turbines taking an additional 400 hectares of land, construction of an airstrip, and the amount of ore being mined increasing by 40 per cent.
Caribou migration options might also be reduced if the wind turbines and airstrip are built, Manzo said.
Manzo also wrote that Agnico Eagle’s consultation with the KIA for the extension was not sufficient.
The company consulted the organization about the extension on June 18, 2021, but was only provided more information in May this year, despite KIA repeatedly asking the company for information, he said.
Manzo told Nunatsiaq News he cannot comment further because the review process has begun.
The Kangiqtiniq Hunters and Trappers Organization, located in Rankin Inlet, stated it does not support the addition of windmills and an airport because of the impact that would have on wildlife migrations. The group also recommended a full assessment be done of the proposed mine extension.
Nunatsiaq News contacted the Kangiqtiniq group, however no one was available for comment.
Extending the mine will prolong its economic benefits, such as employment, business contracts and training programs, Agnes Simonfalvy, the Avatiliriniq coordinator for the Government of Nunavut, wrote to NIRB.
However, she agreed that the wind turbines and airstrip should be assessed because of the potential effect on surrounding wildlife and habitat.
NIRB’s executive director, Karen Costello, told Nunatsiaq News she could not estimate a timeline for the Meliadine mine extension reconsideration, but a typical reconsideration can take up to six to nine months.
An update on the timeline of the review should be available in the coming weeks, she added.
The Meliadine mine is still able to operate while the reconsideration occurs.
Once the reconsideration report is finished and new terms and conditions for the mine are potentially presented, federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal will have 45 days to approve, change or reject the recommendations from the report.
Most consumers don’t know where the gold in their products comes from, or how it is mined. Gold mining is one of the most destructive industries in the world. It can displace communities, contaminate drinking water, hurt workers, and destroy pristine environments. It pollutes water and land with mercury and cyanide, endangering the health of people and ecosystems. Producing gold for one wedding ring alone generates 20 tons of waste.
Gold mining can have devastating effects on nearby water resources. Toxic mine waste contains as many as three dozen dangerous chemicals including:
Mining companies around the world routinely dump toxic waste into rivers, lakes, streams and oceans – our research has shown 180 million tonnes of such waste annually. But even if they do not, such toxins often contaminate waterways when infrastructure such as tailings dams, which holds mine waste, fail.
According to the UNEP there have been over 221 major tailings dam failures. These have killed hundreds of people around the world, displaced thousands and contaminated the drinking water of millions.
The resulting contaminated water is called acid mine drainage, a toxic cocktail uniquely destructive to aquatic life. According to one study: “The effects of AMD are so multifarious that community structure collapses rapidly and totally, even though very often no single pollutant on its own would have caused such a severe ecological impact.”
These same “multifarious impacts” also makes recovery from such wastes much more difficult.
This environmental damage ultimately affects us — in addition to drinking water contamination, AMD’s byproducts such as mercury and heavy metals work their way into the food chain and sicken people and animals for generations.
The Biggest Polluters:
The top four mines that dump tailings into bodies of water account for 86% of the 180 million tonnes dumped into bodies of water each year. Those mines are:
Freeport McMoRan and Rio Tinto’s Grasberg mine in West Papua, Indonesia, which accounts for approximately 80 million tonnes of tailings
Newmont Sumitomo Mining’s Batu Hijau mine in Indonesia, which accounts for approximately 40 million tonnes
Ok Tedi Mining Ltd.’s Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea, which accounts for approximately 22 million tonnes
Cliff’s Mining Company’s Wabush/Scully mine in Labrador, Canada, which accounts for 13 million tonnes of tailings
Notice these mines that are mentioned are all mines in poor countries (except Lab) where there are no rules and regulations for mining. All mines in Canada have R&R the mine owners need to follow long after they are shutdown, this story is talking about places that do what they want when it comes to mining and there’s no one to hold them accountable.
Same old storey heard it many times, automatic storey produced by Mining watch, WWF, funded by deep pocketed eco colonialism southern groups. Keep the people
Down and poor.
I’m actually an Inuk who commented above as I care about the land and the resource it offers. With continue growth to the mining industry, it will only damage the land and the resource it has to offer.
Read up more about Gold mining and you will see what damage it has done to other countries and it is happening now in Baffin Region, won’t be long in Kivalliq
Yes as you said it happens in other countries, Canada has different rules and regulations that mining companies need to follow, otherwise big fines are handed down. It’s not the same here in this country as I said above.
Why can’t Inuit organization mine.
At this point I believe you would have to be stupid to mine anything In Nunavut. They clearly don’t want any mining done in the territory.