Gold miner Agnico Eagle has obtained regulatory approval for an emergency amendment to its water licence, allowing the company to transfer water from a containment pond into nearby Meliadine Lake.
The company is allowed to discharge the containment pond water — which holds various minerals and salts known as total dissolved solids (TDS) — at a maximum average concentration of 3,500 milligrams per litre for TDS. However, there will be no changes to the management of saline groundwater, according to Agnico Eagle.
There should be no effects on the quality of the water and no harm will be done to fish, the company stated.
The containment pond is currently holding about about 650,000 cubic metres. Snow melt is expected to be 450,000 cubic metres. Rain over the coming months is also expected to amount to 450,000 cubic metres.
Agnico Eagle committed to establishing a water management working group, which will comprise the “appropriate authorities,” to monitor the situation, including government and Kivalliq Inuit Association representatives. Toxicity tests of the lake water will be conducted. The company also stated that it will notify the community — Rankin Inlet is 25 km to the south — of the progress of the discharge and the water quality conditions in Meliadine Lake.
“We want to reassure the community that we are working in good faith throughout this situation with a view to working towards the best outcome for Nunavut waters and the environment,” reads a news release from Agnico Eagle.
This measure, endorsed by the Nunavut Water Board, is needed because of the volume of snow melt and rain runoff.
In 2019, the mining company had to suspend its regular discharge from the containment pond because of rising mineral concentrations.
“It is important to note that this water is not saline, nor is it process water. It is water that is collected on site from rain and snow melt that get in contact with surface infrastructure,” Agnico Eagle stated. “The containment pond water was sampled and results from the water sampling indicated that the higher TDS concentration of the water held in the containment pond will not have negative effects on the environment of Meliadine Lake.”