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'Insufficient use' of traditional knowledge
KIA responds to Agnico's environmental impact assessment for Meliadine

by Candace Thomson
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. hasn't given enough reference of traditional knowledge in one of its most important documents concerning the Meliadine project, according to the Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA).

The environmental impact assessment (EIS) for the Meliadine gold mine, which if approved will be Agnico's second mine in Nunavut, was released in the spring and showcased to the community of Rankin Inlet in mid-June. Since then, various organizations including the KIA, the Kivalliq Wildlife Management Board and the territorial and federal governments have submitted comments.

Executive members of the KIA were unavailable for comment before press time but the submission provided by the association is available in the public registry of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB).

"There continues to be insufficient use of (traditional knowledge) in the EIS to substantiate (Agnico's) claim that traditional knowledge has been used to determine the potential environmental, socio-economic and health impacts of the project," reads the association's submission, which it submitted to the board on July 18.

The report states Agnico didn't use enough documented sources of traditional knowledge, or Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, in its assessment, had unclear methods of interpreting sources of traditional knowledge, had unclear souces and no integration of traditional knowledge used in the proposed monitoring programs such as marine monitoring.

"Inuit land users, elders and youth have many relevant skills and capacities that can be key to successful long-term monitoring," the submissions states.

The KIA also had issues with Agnico's proposed impact on the barren-land caribou which migrate across the area where the mine will operate.

"An increase harvesting as a result of the road is predicted to be significant," the KIA states.

"This prediction is anticipated due to evidence on harvesting increase (doubled) near Meadowbank due to increased road access. However, the data on harvesting is not particularly reliable; it is not clear if total caribou harvest for the community has increased or whether people are simply being economic about their harvesting."

In its environmental assessment, as presented in Rankin in June, it's predicted the caribou herd may lose more than 33,000 hectares of habitat due to development at the site and another 14,000 hectares because of sensory disturbances such as noise from machinery and traffic. Other animals such as birds, fish and predators will also be affected but, Agnico states all effects will be reversible in the long-term.

"The KIA considers the analysis and subsequent conclusions provided by (Agnico) are overly subjective and unhelpful," the association's submission states. "There is no quantitative analysis, only vague subjective statements. The KIA requests that (Agnico) commit to ... provide a quantitative analysis of the potential effects of a doubling of the Rankin Inlet caribou harvest will have on a declining Qamanirjuaq caribou herd."

Aside from the caribou, the KIA also takes issue with sections in the environmental impact assessment related to the fishery, marine mammals, air quality, noise and the development of the Rankin harbour. This submission, along with others from various organizations, will be read at the final hearing in Rankin Inlet from Aug. 21 to 27. From there, the NIRB should give its response by the end of 2014 and then the project is up for federal approval. The Meliadine project is located 25 km north of Rankin Inlet and could be operational by 2015 if it gets approval. Attempts to reach Agnico by press time were unsuccessful.

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