Nunavut regulators nix Agnico Eagle’s hovercraft plans
Pilot project should be "modified or abandoned"
The Nunavut Impact Review Board has determined that a pilot project floated by Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. to test hovercraft in the Kivalliq region should be “modified or abandoned.”
In its April 17 screening decision, the NIRB said the use of hovercraft in Nunavut needs more research and that the mining company should produce a new proposal that addresses public concerns about hovercrafts and what could be “unacceptable impacts on wildlife habitat or Inuit harvest activities.”
Agnico Eagle had wanted to bring two hovercraft to Nunavut’s Kivalliq region this summer.
The company wanted to use these hovercraft to transport personnel and light cargo on the Amaruq Exploration Access Road near its Meadowbank gold mine, on the winter roads and on designated trails to drilling properties on its Amaruq property on a year-round basis.
But in its decision, the NIRB said “the project proposal as currently designed is likely to cause significant public concern, and is likely to result in significant adverse ecosystemic and socioeconomic impacts.”
In its project proposal, Agnico Eagle had said the hovercraft would produce less noise and damage to the land—and, unlike permanent trails and roads, the use of hovercraft would not put additional hunting pressure on caribou, “thus reducing the predicted cumulative impacts on caribou.”
Hovercraft can be used on water and land, taking people or industrial loads over small and large rivers, lakes, swamps, snow, soil, packed ice bogs, tundra, and coastal seas throughout the year.
And hovercraft have resolved numerous logistical and transportation problems in Siberia and the Far East, Agnico Eagle said in its project proposal to the NIRB.
The company said overall, the cumulative effects of the hovercraft “are not assessed as significant.”
But the NIRB, which received various comments, including one from the Kivalliq Inuit Association, which said it did “not support this project at all,” wasn’t convinced.
The NIRB recommended in its screening decision to the minister that Agnico Eagle conduct more community consultations and work with the KIA and others “to reflect the potential for impacts specifically associated with hovercraft use.”
The board also asked for mitigation measures in any subsequent submissions for the protection of caribou, fish, birds, and other wildlife, and their respective habitats.