Meliadine gold mine’s environmental impact statement short on traditional knowledge: KIA (Nunatsiaq News – July 25, 2014)

“Inuit communities of the Kivalliq region have many generations of accumulated observation”

While Agnico Eagle Mines has made efforts to incorporate Inuit Qaujimanituqangit in the research and development of its Meliadine gold project, the Kivalliq Inuit Association has asked the company to consider using more traditional knowledge as the company seeks approval to open its second gold mine in Nunavut.

The KIA is one of a handful of organizations that have submitted comments this month in response to Meladine’s final environmental impact statement (FEIS), which AEM released this past spring.

In a report prepared by Brenda Parlee, an associate professor in the University of Alberta’s department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, the KIA suggests the mining company could benefit from traditional knowledge to identify what parts of the ecosystem are most valued by Inuit, and to better analyze past, current and future trends in the region.

“Inuit communities of the Kivalliq region have many generations of accumulated observations and consequent insights about the local study area and the regional study area,” reads KIA’s submission.

“In addition, Inuit land users, elders and youth have many relevant skills and capacities that can be key to successful long term monitoring.”

But, in continues, “there continues to be insufficient use of IQ in the EIS to substantiate the proponent’s claim that [traditional knowledge] has been used to determine the potential environmental, socio-economic and health impacts of the project as required through the assessment process,” KIA said.

The KIA found it useful to see “IQ flags” added in the margins of the Meliadine final EIS to help identify where Agnico Eagle felt traditional knowledge had been incorporated.

But there is “little to no consideration” on how IQ on climate change has influenced Agnico Eagle’s analysis of impacts, project plans, management and monitoring, KIA said.

Some other observations made by KIA in its submission include:

• the section in its final EIS on polar bears omits some key IQ literature that is published by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and in academic journals;

• the proponent provides some additional information regarding barren ground caribou populations potentially affected by the project. However, there continues to be no use of IQ in defining caribou habitat, nor defining caribou habitat use.

• “some relevant IQ is available on many key issues such as caribou population change and distribution, marine wildlife habitat, populations, behaviour and climate change,” the KIA submission says. “This body of existing documented sources of IQ was rarely referenced by the proponent; and,

• there continues to be “very poor” integration of IQ in the sections on marine mammals: IQ was not considered in describing the mammals’ habitat, migration routes, reproduction or behaviour.

Agnico Eagle, which already operates Nunavut’s only operating mine — a gold operation at Meadowbank about 80 kilometres north of Baker Lake — outlines in the final EIS what it sees as the impacts of gold production on the vegetation, air quality, sea and land animals, and also nearby people.

Among those animals — caribou: the Meliadine mine will be located within the range of the Qamanirjuaq caribou herd, a prime food source for Kivallirmiut.

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