Nunavut board vetoes Agnico Eagle's pitch to test hovercrafts on the tundra

The Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended that Agnico Eagle's plans to pilot hovercrafts at its mine sites be "modified or abandoned" in a decision published April 18.

The gold mining company applied to run a year-long test with two hovercrafts at its Meadowbank site northwest of Baker Lake and the nearby Amaruq extension.

One hovercraft would have been used to transport up to 22 people. The other one would have moved equipment from the Amaruq property to drill sites on the tundra.

But when the proposal was opened up for commenting, multiple groups came forward with concerns.

The Kivalliq Inuit Association was opposed to the idea on the grounds that the project would add to the cumulative impacts in the area.

NIRB is also considering an application for an access road to Amaruq from Agnico Eagle, while other mining exploration activities have already been approved.

The untested nature of the hovercrafts also concerned KIA, which said it was uncomfortable with the pilot project taking place on Inuit-owned lands.

Agnico Eagle not giving up yet

Environment and Climate Change Canada submitted comments suggesting that migratory birds and their nests might be disturbed or damaged by the hovercrafts.

While the proposal suggested that the hovercrafts would stick to the approved winter road routes, the board surmised from commenters that there was not enough wildlife information available in the area to be sure of potential impacts.

The review board recommended Agnico Eagle further develop its Amaruq Wildlife Protection and Response plan to include a more thorough study of impacts and proposed mitigation.

It also suggested the company clarify how it will collect data during the pilot project and how it will use the data in future applications.

Dale Coffin, a spokesperson for Agnico Eagle, said the company will be reaching out to stakeholders to better understand and address their concerns before they make a decision about resubmitting the project for review.

"We believe in the technology and its ability to provide an alternative method of transportation in the North," he said.