A weekend of congestion at the Itivia boat launch has prompted an explanation from Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., the company that runs the Meliadine gold project near Rankin Inlet.
As three phases of construction begin at the mine site, numerous factors collided over the Nunavut Day weekend that led to a pile-up of sea cans at the boat launch and made it difficult for boaters to access the community launch, according to Agnico Eagle’s community affairs co-ordinator Pujjuut Kusugak.
The company has been using the boat launch to offload sea cans for transportation to the laydown area for Meliadine. During an information session on July 18, Kusugak said that on the weekend in question a barge for Agnico Eagle arrived at the same time as a barge for the community.
“This automatically created that much more traffic, because there were two operations going on at the same time,” he said.
Coupled with a migration of caribou making their way through the Meliadine mine site, which shut down all activity at the mine until they passed, Agnico Eagle couldn’t transport its sea cans from the boat launch to the staging area.
“Everything that was going to be transported from Itivia to Meliadine had to be postponed,” Kusugak said.
“That created more traffic … and due to that, this made it more difficult for boaters to launch their boats. We apologize for that.”
During a meeting of council on July 11, Rankin Inlet Mayor Robert Janes said there had been many complaints from community members about the Itivia site and the congestion at the boat launch area.
At the time, Janes said the hamlet wasn’t in a position to talk about the site.
Elders who spoke up during the July 18 meeting expressed the importance of the boat launch area for residents of Rankin Inlet and said the company’s use of the site is a serious concern.
Jerome Tattuinee questioned whether Agnico Eagle had considered expanding the existing dock, adding boaters already have difficulty pulling up their boats to the dock when the tide is low.
“Is it possible to expand that so there is less traffic created?” he asked, speaking in Inuktitut. His question was translated by Kusugak, who acted as a translator throughout the meeting.
Martin Plante, the general manager for Meliadine, said that’s something the company has been looking into.
Sea can wall ‘for safety’
The boat launch remains divided by a wall of sea cans, which Kusugak says was built for the safety of community members. The wall was constructed July 10.
“The reason those were put (up) was for the safety of the residents of Rankin, to make sure that all the work being done on one side is where Agnico is working, so that there’s no safety concern for the public side,” Kusugak said.
“That way, the boats or barges can come on the Agnico side and they won’t have to cross that barrier.”
The wall will be dismantled once the construction period ends.
Three phases of summer construction
Construction work is ramping up at Meliadine mine, which expects to go into production in 2019.
According to handouts from Agnico Eagle, the infrastructure needed for the mine is being constructed at the Itivia harbour area.
That project involves three phases: the construction of a laydown area for the transfer of sea cans, the construction of fuel tanks and the construction of a six-kilometre bypass road, which is expected to reduce traffic in Rankin Inlet.
Agnico Eagle expects eight ships to anchor in Rankin Inlet between July and November. Approximately 2,000 sea cans will be delivered.
The fuel tanks will include a 13.5-million litre tank and a 20-million litre tank constructed near the Itivia runway. Construction of those will include the installation of a membrane to catch any potential spills.
Addressing concerns about the proximity of the fuel tanks to the runway, Plante said the site was designed according to “all regulations.”
“In terms of air transportation, the risk is below the standard of the industry,” he said.
Blasting is already happening at the Itivia quarry and will increase in frequency once work begins on the bypass road.
Stephane Houde, site services supervisor for Meliadine, said blasting will likely wrap up at the end of August. The bypass road is expected to be completed by November.
Another information session has been scheduled for July 27. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the community hall and will cover the same topics as the July 18 meeting, as well as the relocation of the shooting range, caribou migration and gravel pits within municipal boundaries.