The Whale Tail deposit, pictured, will be connected to Agnico's Meadowbank mine by a 65-kilometre road. Courtesy of Agnico Eagle

Agnico Eagle received the green light from the federal government to move forward with its Whale Tail project, located near Baker Lake, Nunavut.

The prospective open-pit gold mine is part of the company’s efforts to prolong the life of its Meadowbank mine, and is expected to begin operations in the third quarter of 2019 and last until 2022. Part of Agnico’s Amaruq project, the Whale Tail deposit will be connected to Meadowbank by a 65-kilometre road and haul trucks will take ore to Meadowbank’s processing facilities. In a letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB), Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett recommended the project proceed, subject to 64 conditions the board raised in its review.

Bennett said there was still more information needed around potentially high levels of arsenic concentration in seepage water from the waste rock storage facility and the proposed pit lake that would be created after the deposit has been mined, but left it to the Nunavut Water Board to address.

Jamie Quesnel, Agnico’s manager of regulatory affairs for Nunavut, said the water concerns are “at the forefront, but being managed.” He said the company will continue to work with government and the Kivalliq Inuit Association going forward.

Related: Names to Know 2017: Dominique Girard, vice-president of Nunavut operations at Agnico Eagle

Bennett noted in her letter that the company had committed to conducting additional hydrodynamic modelling of the seepage water from the storage facility, and modelling and characterization studies around water quality in the pit lake. “This information will help to reduce uncertainty about water quality,” she wrote.

Meadowbank was expected to stop producing in 2018, but the company reported in its 2017 financial results that production had been extended into 2019 by extending the mine plan for its Vault and Phaser pits. The change closed the gap between Meadowbank’s conclusion and the start of operations at Amaruq. “The key thing is to extend the life of mine at Meadowbank,” said Quesnel.

Whale Tail must receive a project certificate from the NIRB before a water license can be issued, but Quesnel said the company streamlined the process by engaging both the NIRB and the Nunavut Water Board in talks simultaneously to address the necessary concerns before beginning construction, which the company is targeting for July.

The operation is expected to create about 150 new jobs.