NIRB Report Shows Agnico-Eagle Still Not Meeting Commitments At Meadowbank Gold Mine

Lack of dust suppression on access road and dysfunctional groundwater monitoring raise questions about AREVA’s proposed mitigation and monitoring plans

The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) has uploaded its report from its annual site visit to the Meadowbank gold mine [1]. Meadowbank is an open-pit gold mine, located near Baker Lake Nunavut, owned and operated by Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd.

In its 2012 site visit report, NIRB notes several instances where Agnico-Eagle is not meeting the requirements laid out in its project certificate. Agnico-Eagle is not suppressing dust on its all weather access road between Baker Lake and the Meadowbank mine. Baker Lake residents have repeatedly complained about the level of dust the Meadowbank road produces. They have expressed concerns about the potential impacts of dust on the health of people, wildlife and plants. Some hunters are concerned that the dust and noise created by the all weather road is impacting caribou migrations and causing the caribou to avoid the Baker Lake area.

According to the project certificate for the Meadowbank gold mine, Agnico-Eagle is required to suppress dust on the access road. The NIRB report indicates that Agnico-Eagle has no intention of adhering to this condition of the project certificate. However, the report does not explain why Agnico-Eagle is not suppressing dust on the road.

It is important to note that AREVA is also seeking permission to build an all weather road near Baker Lake for their proposed Kiggavik uranium mine. In their draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), AREVA states that they will suppress dust on their access road. However, AREVA’s DEIS does not indicate how they will do this. It remains to be determined whether or not AREVA will encounter the same issues experienced by Agnico-Eagle.

The NIRB report also indicates that Agnico-Eagle continues to experience problems with groundwater monitoring. Since monitoring began, the wells Agnico-Eagle uses to sample groundwater have often been damaged by permafrost and are frequently off-line. During this site visit, only one well was operational.

Protection of groundwater is a key consideration at any mine site but is especially important at uranium mines like AREVA’s proposed Kiggavik Mine. Monitoring the groundwater at this project, if approved, would be very important as storing radioactive uranium tailings in permafrost is considered “experimental” and uranium mining is known to have contaminated groundwater in Canada [2] and elsewhere [3]. The apparent inability of Agnico-Eagle to properly monitor groundwater raises serious concerns about the ability of AREVA to adequately monitor the proposed Kiggavik Mine.

[1] Nunavut Impact Review Board 2012 site visit report for the Meadowbank gold mine

[2] For groundwater issues related to uranium mining in Canada, see: Cluff Lake Decommissioning Report

www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/41B79974-docs/report_e.pdf

[3]. For groundwater issues related to uranium mining in New Mexico

http://www.swhydro.arizona.edu/archive/V7_N6/ ;

For groundwater issues related to uranium mining in Australia

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/news/13904615/uranium-mine-tailings-leave-an-enduring-toxic-legacy/

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About makitanunavut

Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit (Makita) is a Nunavut-based non-governmental organization. Made up of members from Baker Lake and Iqaluit, Makita is dedicated to fostering a critical public discussion about uranium mining in Nunavut.
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