Agnico Eagle Mines says it wants to work with the Kivalliq Inuit Association to choose a site for a proposed 11-turbine wind farm at its Meliadine gold mine, after the project's proposed location faced criticism at a hearing this month.
That's according to submissions made on the final day of a public hearing in Rankin Inlet before the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB). The hearing focused on the mining company's proposal to extend the mine's life and build a wind farm to power the mine, among other requests.
Through the hearing, Agnico Eagle received pushback from Inuit organizations, the Government of Nunavut and the Rankin Inlet Hunters and Trappers Organization as well as members of the public over the proposed location for the wind farm, because of its proximity to caribou calving grounds.
Paul Irngaut, vice president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), said the wind farm is "a great idea in theory but it presents too much risk."
"[NTI] urges the board to reject that part of Agnico Eagle's proposal. The wind farm should not be approved until a suitable location is found," Irngaut said.
Jonathan Katz, legal counsel for the Kivalliq Inuit Association, said KivIA is confident it can work with Agnico Eagle so both parties can benefit from the project.
Katz said KivIA continues to oppose the location Agnico Eagle has chosen and noted that the only party at the hearing that supported the location was the mining company itself.
He said KivIA will work to try to come up with alternative wind farm locations, through "thorough assessment."
All eight days of the hearing in Rankin Inlet were dominated by discussions around how the wind farm might affect caribou.
The Nunavut Impact Review Board listens to questions and comments from community members at the public hearing in Rankin Inlet this month. (Emma Tranter/CBC)
The mining company has said that its current mitigation and monitoring efforts are working and that caribou have not responded to the mine site. It also has mitigation plans in place for the wind farm, including shutting it down if caribou are spotted within five kilometres of the project.
"It's difficult to reach an agreement when Agnico Eagle has failed to acknowledge throughout this hearing that the proposed extension will impact caribou despite hearing a mountain of evidence to the contrary," Katz said.
He also said if the project is approved, it should include an assessment of caribou migration around the project and infrastructure, the creation of a new and distinct calving protection plan, and a cumulative effects analysis.
Naomi Pudluk, assistant deputy minister of Environment with the Government of Nunavut (GN), said the proposal had the potential to prolong any existing impacts to wildlife.
Pudluk also said that extending the mine's life would allow Nunavummiut to continue benefiting from employment and training opportunities.
"The benefits of the proposed project must go toward the local people as much as possible," Pudluk said.
She also reiterated that the GN wants to see the threshold for shutting down the wind farm lowered — meaning it would be stopped when caribou are spotted within 10 kilometres of the site, not five.
The issue of climate change "demands response," Pudluk said, and the wind farm supports Nunavut's goal of reducing its dependence on diesel.
The GN said it will contribute to the ongoing monitoring of caribou as calving moves closer to the mine site.
Agnico Eagle's Meliadine gold mine near Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)
Spencer Dewar, the director of resource management with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, said that if it should be approved, the wind farm needs support from those affected by it.
Dewar also said the Government of Canada strongly encourages Agnico Eagle to reduce or eliminate discharges into Meliadine Lake.
Noel Kaludjak with the Rankin Inlet HTO, said they also want to see caribou monitoring increased around the mine.
"We still stand on the fact that the location requested by the Agnico Eagle mines is not feasible and we oppose it," Kaludjak said.
Mine extension not dependant on wind farm, company says
Manon Turmel, permitting and regulatory affairs superintendent with Agnico Eagle, said the extension is not dependent on the wind farm. That means the review board could make a separate recommendation on that proposal.
The reason for the wind farm, Turmel said, was in response to a greenhouse gas reduction plan from the federal government. The wind farm would replace up to 30 per cent of the mine's diesel usage.
Turmel also said the construction of the wind farm would be under the condition that the mining company and KivIA would continue discussing potential locations for the site.
"We are asking for the board's support to continue down this path," Turmel said.
Once a location is agreed upon, Agnico Eagle will prepare a supplemental report on the agreed location and provide it to the NIRB at least six months prior to construction. Installation of wind turbines would then proceed in a phased approach.
Turmel said Agnico Eagle is confident that the mine has shown significant benefits and through monitoring and mitigation, there will not be significant environmental effects.
"We recommend that the board recommend a wind farm subject to a location, as it shows that we have listened to the comments and concerns," she said.
Following the submissions, the NIRB's legal counsel said the hearing record will stay open for an undetermined amount of time while the board decides what additional information it needs.
After the record is closed, the NIRB will have 45 days to issue a recommendation to the federal minister of Northern Affairs, who will have the final say.