Photo credit: Page Burt, Outcrop Communications Ltd.
At the Ready for Caribou Migration
Adapting our mining activities to caribou movements is important for the protection of caribou herds in Nunavut.
Based on the 2008 government of Nunavut (GN) survey, the population of the Qamanirjuaq herd, which interacts with both Meliadine and to the south of the Meadowbank projects, is around 348,000 animals. Protection of the herd starts with the reliable collection and use of data, observations from environmental staff, collaboration with Inuit stakeholders such as the Hunters and Trappers Organization (HTO) and the Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA) and awareness from management. Weekly (increased to daily during caribou migration) environment department complete mine site and road surveys and observations from employees and operators are added to the government collaring data to inform decisions. From 2008 to 2016, we financed the installation of 40 additional collars as part of the GN caribou collaring program.
Caribou collaring, surveys and field observations inform mitigation measures; in some cases resulted in complete shutdown of mining activities. As an example, in July 2017, through onsite consultation with the HTO and KIA, all activities stopped at Meliadine for 47 hours as thousands of caribou (“the mother load!”) passed through the Meliadine site.
In fact, on July 9th, when the road closed between the Portal and Exploration camps because of a massive caribou crossing, underground mining crews were not able to get back to their rooms at the Exploration Camp. They were redirected to the New Camp, located on the other side of the Meliadine site. Approximately 65 unannounced guests arrived as the kitchen and janitorial staff scrambled to receive them – eventually managing to feed and have a room ready for each surprise guest.
In the fall, when caribou switch to a diet mainly of lichen and begin battling the cold weather, Meadowbank shuts down the AWAR to ensure caribou safely migrate south to their calving grounds.