Agnico's pilot project proposed testing two three-tonne hovercrafts, like the one above, to transport personnel, equipment and fuel. Courtesy of Agnico Eagle

Agnico Eagle is devoting a lot of its energy to the development of its Nunavut projects, but that work will have to get done without the support of hovercrafts, at least for now. The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) determined that the miner’s pilot project to use crafts “should be modified or abandoned.”

The review board’s decision, published in mid-April, cited concerns from various stakeholders, including the Kivalliq Inuit Association, on the potential impacts of the project on local wildlife. The NIRB recommended that Agnico conduct more research into the effects of the hovercrafts and consult with the local community to address their concerns.

Dale Coffin, corporate director of communications and public affairs at Agnico, told CIM Magazine the company plans to “sit down and discuss [the project] with stakeholders to mitigate their concerns” before moving forward. There is no timeline for consultation but Coffin said it will happen in the near future.

The pilot project proposed testing two three-tonne hovercrafts, one to transport personnel from Agnico’s Meadowbank and Amaruq camps to nearby drill sites on its Amaruq property, and the other to transport equipment and fuel. The project would have also tested the hovercrafts for use in search and rescue missions. “We want to test the viability of the craft in that type of climate and terrain,” said Coffin.

The hovercrafts would provide year-round access to land in all weather conditions and is a safer form of transportation, according to Coffin. It would also represent a cost savings for the gold producer. Transporting personnel in a helicopter, for example, costs $1,200 per person per trip whereas it only costs about $45 per person in a hovercraft.

Agnico is focusing on the growth of its Nunavut operations in the coming years, said Coffin, making up 80 per cent of its three-year overall growth plan to produce two million ounces of gold per year by 2020.  Although the Meadowbank gold mine 110 kilometres north of Baker Lake is nearing the end of its life, scheduled for 2018, the Amaruq satellite operation is planned for start-up in 2019. The company is also developing its Meliadine project, about 290 kilometres southeast of Meadowbank, for start-up in 2019.