Nunavut regulators to revisit Meadowbank gold mine project certificate
Agnico Eagle must detail pit expansion proposal in addendum to its 2005 FEIS
The Nunavut Impact Review Board says it will have to reassess Meadowbank gold mine’s project certificate following Agnico Eagle’s proposal to expand its open pit operations near the Nunavut community of Baker Lake.
Last July, the company proposed to expand its current Vault Pit operations southwest into nearby Phaser Lake to form Phaser Pit, expected to produce 21,511 ounces of gold.
But before the mining company can start that work, it would need to drain the lake of an estimated 700,000 cubic metres of water and remove fish from the lake in advance of a mining start-up there in 2017.
In its proposal, Agnico Eagle described the Phaser Pit addition as a insignificant change to the project and within the scope of the original project permitted by the NIRB Project Certificate, which was first issued in December 2006.
The NIRB agreed, to a point.
In its own findings, the review board said the proposed activities are integrally linked to Meadowbank’s project and did not make it a distinct project subject to screening.
And as long as monitoring continued, the Government of Nunavut and Inuit organizations agreed.
But federal departments, including Aboriginal Affairs, Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans called for a more through environmental and socio-economic assessment, community consultations and a standalone document to outline the changes.
On Jan. 23, NIRB chairperson Elizabeth Copeland wrote to Bernard Valcourt, the federal minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, asking for his department’s direction.
In a separate letter sent to Agnico Eagle the same day, the NIRB requested the mining company prepare an addendum to Meadowbank’s final environmental impact statement describing all aspects of the proposed amendment.
If the new completed final EIS conforms with guidelines, the board will initiate a 90-day public review, which will include public information sessions in Baker Lake and Chesterfield Inlet.
Agnico Eagle applied for authorization to de-water Phaser Lake in 2012, when a No Net Loss Plan, or NNLP, was approved by the department of Fisheries and Oceans to cover fisheries losses, the company said in its project description.
That plan provides for a “fish-out,” meaning the fish are taken out of the lake and transferred to another body of water.
The company has already de-watered most of nearby Vault Lake under the terms of its existing project certificate and started mining there in January 2014, the company said.
But under the newest Phaser Pit proposal, the Nunavut Water Board has confirmed that any additional activities would require an amendment to the mine’s Type A water license.
Next, Agnico Eagle must provide a date for when it expects to submit its updated environmental impact statement to the NIRB.
The company was hoping to have Phaser Pit in production by 2017.