Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 31, 2017 - 4:00 pm

INAC sends Nunavut hovercraft plan back to Agnico Eagle

Federal government says mining company should get a chance to resubmit its proposal

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Hovercraft, like this one, are widely used in Russia's Arctic regions. They move by using blowers to produce a large volume of air below the hull. That are is slightly above atmospheric pressure, so this pressure difference produces lift, which causes the hull to float above the running surface. (FILE PHOTO)
Hovercraft, like this one, are widely used in Russia's Arctic regions. They move by using blowers to produce a large volume of air below the hull. That are is slightly above atmospheric pressure, so this pressure difference produces lift, which causes the hull to float above the running surface. (FILE PHOTO)

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. should get a chance to modify and resubmit a proposal to use hovercraft to move cargo and personnel between the Meadowbank mine and its Amaruq project in the Kivalliq region, an assistant deputy minister at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada said July 14 in a letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

That’s comes after the NIRB decided last April that the pilot project floated by Agnico Eagle to test hovercraft in the Kivalliq region should be “modified or abandoned.”

Writing on Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada letterhead (the department changed names in 2015,) ADM Stephen M. Van Dine, communicating on behalf of INAC Minister Carolyn Bennett, said in a letter to the NIRB that if Agnico Eagle decides to resubmit its project, the company should look closely at the NIRB’s April screening decision.

In this 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 received comments from the Kivalliq Inuit Association, that said the KIA did “not support this project at all.”

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.

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