Agnico Eagle's Meliadine mine extension project on hold by NIRB due to 'significant outstanding issues'

Agnico Eagle's Meliadine gold mine is 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.  (Submitted by Agnico Eagle - image credit)
Agnico Eagle's Meliadine gold mine is 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. (Submitted by Agnico Eagle - image credit)

Agnico Eagle's Meliadine extension project — which proposes, among other things, a windfarm and an on-site airstrip — can't proceed to the next steps until the company addresses some concerns, says the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB).

The Meliadine extension project, the board said, still has "significant outstanding issues" that have to be dealt with before the board can complete its technical review, according to a Dec. 22 news release from NIRB.

That means the public hearing for the project won't be scheduled yet, as the board said it's "premature."

In the release, NIRB said it and parties involved need "sufficient information to assess the potential for ecosystemic and socio-economic impacts" associated with the extension project proposal in order to move on to the next stages of the process.

Meliadine is a gold mine about 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, and 80 kilometres southwest of Chesterfield Inlet. It was first approved in 2015.

One aspect of the extension proposal is an 11-turbine windfarm to provide power to the mine. The company said it would help reduce diesel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Agnico says its proposal also considered "archaeological sites, cabins, wildlife, vegetation and access for construction."

The company is also seeking approval to store tailings in open pits that are no longer being used. The company says this would lower the ecological footprint since right now it removes water from tailings and stores the dry tailings at a tailings storage facility and then stores waste rock at a waste rock storage facility.

"Storing tailings and waste rock in exhausted pits would reduce freshwater use and re-use spaces instead of impacting new ones," the company proposal says.

Submitted by Agnico Eagle
Submitted by Agnico Eagle

The company also wants to improve access via the Tiriganiaq-Wolf portal to an underground mine that was already approved, along with infrastructure to support the Tiriganiaq-Wolf portal.

As for the on-site airstrip, the company says it does not plan to build it "any time soon," if they are approved. But it said if or when it is built, the airstrip would reduce traffic and dust on the criticized Meliadine Road, and it says it would "increase flexibility during caribou migration, and provide partnership opportunities for local businesses during construction and operations."

The company said approval of the extension would allow the company to keep the mine open up to 11 extra years until 2043.

"That means training, jobs, business partnerships, community programs, royalties and tax revenue would benefit the region well into the future," the proposal says.

The company declined to comment while the NIRB process is ongoing, but a spokesperson wit  Agnico Eagle said the company is focused on "getting community feedback on current or proposed activities and on identifying and resolving issues."

NIRB suggested a series of next steps in its news release, which include community information sessions in Tadoule Lake and Lac Brochet, Man. It also suggests Agnico Eagle then file all supplemental information with the board by Jan. 31, where parties and the public would have a chance to provide their feedback by Feb. 28.

The board said it would then host a half-day pre-hearing conference over teleconference in the week of March 13-17 to "review technical issues and discuss next steps, including a public hearing for the file."