The final public hearings on the Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM)-owned Whale Tail Pit project were held in front of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) in Baker Lake from Sept. 19-22.
Whale Tail is an open pit gold-mining operation located about 50 kilometers from AEM’s Meadowbank gold mine.
The company intends to mine ore at Whale Tail and truck it to Meadowbank for processing.
A full environmental review on the project has been ordered, which could take the better part of a year to complete.
NIRB executive director Ryan Barry said there were some travel delays for a number of people coming into Baker for the hearings, but they were attended by federal representatives from Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Central Resources Canada, Transport Canada, Climate Change Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“The hearings were pretty-well attended by members of the general public, too” said Barry. “We had a group of students from a local school sit-in for the entire proceedings, and we had community representatives from each of the Kivalliq communities attending, as well.
The hearings were also attended by representatives of the Government of Nunavut, Kivalliq Inuit Association, Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization and the hamlet of Baker Lake
“There was a lot of discussion around caribou, and the monitoring that was being proposed for them,” said Barry. “This project involves pretty intense use of a haul road between the proposed development area and the Meadowbank mine, where they’ll be hauling ore back to the mine site, so there was quite a bit of discussion around the experiences with the Meadowbank mine, its associated road, and some of the differences and similarities between the two developments.”
Barry said what he found interesting about the Whale Tail file is that a lot of discussion focused on the different stages of development, and how this stage of development relates to the approval of the Meliadine gold mine, the ongoing aspirations and closure of the Meadowbank mine, and how this would fit into AEM’s overall plan for the region.
He said the NIRB board is in the process of reviewing all the evidence. It has 45 days from the close of the proceedings to issue its report. The report will go to Indigenous and Northern Affairs on Nov. 6. f
“Then we wait for a decision on whether or not they can accept our report and support our determinations,” said Barry.
“The interesting thing for this file is that even while it’s ongoing, we continue to monitor at the Meadowbank mine site, and at the Meliadine site, as well, so we’re continuing to see how those approved projects actually play out.”