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Review board strikes down Meliadine mine extension proposal

The Nunavut Impact Review Board struck down Agnico Eagle Mines’ extension proposal for Meliadine mine outside of Rankin Inlet, but the company isn’t giving up.

“While we were disappointed by their recommendation that the project should not be permitted to proceed at this time, based on our experience operating in the region for the last 15 years, it is not uncommon in the course of permitting to have an initial negative recommendation from NIRB and still be successful in getting the permit,” stated Agnico Eagle in an email to Kivalliq News.

In its Nov. 17 ruling, NIRB recommended that the Meliadine extension proposal not be allowed to proceed at this time, citing “considerable uncertainty of the potential for the proposal to have negative, lasting effects on caribou, and the uncertainty of cumulative effects.”

Agnico Eagle had sought to extend the mine’s life by 11 years through various expansions of their operation. At the NIRB’s public hearings in Rankin Inlet earlier this fall, critics of the proposal often targeted the windfarm, as the company was looking to construct up to 11 turbines to generate clean power for the mine.

“Throughout the assessment, the board heard the shared concern expressed by intervenors and potentially affected Kivalliq, northern Manitoba and northern Saskatchewan communities that uncertainty remains regarding the nature and extent of potential negative impacts on caribou health, abundance and behaviour due to the intensification of mining, 11-year extension of the mine life and construction and operation of the windfarm as proposed in the extension proposal,” stated the board in a news release from chairperson Kaviq Kaluraq.

“The board also heard from intervenors, community representatives and members of the public that there was concern about the potential for the extension proposal to have cumulative effects to freshwater quality, air quality and the marine environment.”

With respect to the windfarm specifically, the board heard that although people were generally supportive of the company finding alternative energy sources, they opposed the proposed location of the windfarm.

“Parties indicated to the board that their opposition to the specific site of the windfarm was based on considerable uncertainty about the potential effect on caribou,” stated the release.

NIRB stated it has identified “considerable uncertainty” regarding the effects of the overall proposal on the movement and health of the Qamanirjuaq caribou herd, air quality, water quality in Meliadine Lake and Itivia Harbour and the health, livelihood, culture and traditional land use of people in the region.

“In addition, the board noted high levels of uncertainty as to whether existing or modified mitigation measures would be sufficiently protective to prevent or manage negative effects from the extension proposal on caribou, especially when considering critical calving and post-calving periods,” stated the release. “The board also acknowledges that unpredicted negative impacts on caribou would have immediate negative effects on the ability of Inuit, Dene and Denesuline reliant on this herd to harvest caribou, which could have devastating and lasting effects on livelihood, health and culture.”

The board did mention that it is “generally supportive” of proponents finding ways to transition to alternative energy sources.

“The board also notes that in future, with additional project and regional monitoring efforts, there may be increased certainty regarding predicted effects and mitigation measures applicable to the potential effects on caribou and cumulative effects that could provide an increased level of assurance that some or all of the activities, works and undertakings proposed in the extension proposal could be conducted in a manner that would not unduly and adversely impact the ecosystemic integrity of the Nunavut Settlement Area,” stated the release.

That’s the opening where Agnico Eagle remains hopeful.

“We will continue to engage with all stakeholders to address the concerns raised by NIRB,” stated Agnico Eagle in its email. “The NIRB is open to further permitting discussions, made a point of acknowledging the positive social and economic impact of our Meliadine mine, and has encouraged the company to resubmit the proposal in the future.”

Stewart Burnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kivalliq News