Review board rejects Agnico Eagle’s request to change plans for Nunavut mine

The sign on the all-weather access road to Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine near Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. A hearing was held last month into the company’s proposed extension plan for the mine, which would include a wind farm. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

By Emma Tranter · CBC News 

The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) has rejected a proposal from Agnico Eagle Mines to build a wind farm in a different location than it originally described in its Meliadine mine extension plan.

The board says the company must instead submit a new application specifically for the wind farm project.

During a public hearing before the board held in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, last month, the mining company said it wanted to work with the Kivalliq Inuit Association to choose an acceptable site for a proposed 11-turbine wind farm.

The wind farm was part of the company’s proposed extension project, that would see the Meliadine mine operate for an additional 11 years, until 2043.

The company’s proposed location for the wind farm, which was near the mine site, faced widespread criticism from every intervenor at the hearing over concerns about its impacts on caribou.

Board rejects alternate location

On the hearing’s final day, Agnico Eagle changed its position, saying it would not build the wind farm in the originally proposed location and would instead work with the Kivalliq Inuit Association to find a suitable location.

But the review board has rejected that plan, and so the wind farm won’t be part of the mine’s extension proposal at all.

“While Agnico Eagle also sought approval for a wind farm in a different yet to be determined location, the Board determined that a new application specific to the wind farm would need to be brought forward for assessment once a new location has been decided upon,” Ryan Barry, the NIRB’s interim executive director, said in an email to CBC News.

In a decision released late Tuesday, the NIRB said Agnico Eagle “has not provided sufficient information in respect of the relocated wind farm to enable the Board to assess the potential ecosystemic and socio-economic effects of this component of the extension proposal.

“As Agnico Eagle has failed to meet the onus of proof in respect of the relocated wind farm, the Board has excluded this component from the scope of the Extension Proposal assessed by the board,” the decision reads.

The Meliadine gold mine lies about 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet and 80 kilometres southwest of Chesterfield Inlet. It was first approved in 2015.

Previously approved as an open pit operation, the current proposal also includes options for underground mining and is seeking approval to store tailings in open pits that are no longer being used.

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.

Throughout 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.

Decision being reviewed 

In an email, Agnico Eagle spokesperson Casey Paradis St-Onge said the company is reviewing the NIRB’s decision.

“We will take the time to review the recent correspondence from the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) regarding the scope of the assessment,” Paradis St-Onge wrote.

“We remain committed to responsible mining, and we believe that renewal energy solutions, such as wind power, are essential to reducing greenhouse gas emission in Nunavut and achieving a low or zero carbon future.”

The NIRB’s decision also means the public hearing record is closed. The board will now prepare a decision on the mine’s extension proposal, which it has 45 days to complete and send to the federal minister of Northern Affairs, who has the final say.

The NIRB will release its report and recommendations by Nov. 17.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Victoria Gold takes Yukon Water Board to court over $74M increase to mine security, CBC News

Finland: Miners hunting for metals to battery cars threaten Finland’s Sámi reindeer herders’ homeland, The Independent Barents Observer

Lapland: The Arctic Railway – Building a future or destroying a culture?, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Significant metals discovery in key reindeer herding land in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: UN experts call on Sweden to halt mining project on Indigenous Sami land, Eye on the Arctic

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