Environmental concerns aired
Arctic Bay residents speak out against nearby mine

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

ARCTIC BAY (Oct 13/97) - When Nunavut Impact Review Board officials met in Arctic Bay late last month, they got an earful from citizens in the community.

Low-level flying and contamination from Nanisivik Mine's tailing pond were at the top of the list.

"There's a problem with low-level flying and where they go is where the caribou are," said Arctic Bay Mayor Silas Attagutsiak.

"Some of the hunters always see helicopters flying around surveying."

Attagutsiak said the board told council it would get back to it on the issue of low-level flying and contamination but said he doesn't think anything will come of it.

In addition to worries about the pollution from the mine at Nanisivik, Attagutsiak voiced disappointment with the mine's hiring practices.

He said even though an agreement was signed in 1974 indicating 60-per-cent Inuit employment, the mine has failed to come even remotely close to that target over the years.

This in a community where there's a 32-per-cent unemployment rate, said Attagutsiak.

"There's only about 16- to 18-per-cent Inuit employment. The only time it got close was in the mid 80s when they had around 30 per cent.

For the most part, Newfoundlanders retrained by the federal government under Cod Moratorium initiatives are being hired instead of Inuit to work at the mine, he said.

Council has met with the mine many times over the years to improve conditions but nothing has been resolved, Attagutsiak said.

Ron Light, general Manager for CanZinco Ltd., Nanasivik Mine said concern over the mines tailings pond is unwarranted.

"Our tailings pond is in a licensed containment area," said Light. "And anything that blows out is reported as a spill."

To prevent high winds from blowing tailings around, Light said they spray the pond over with water to cover it with a sheet of ice.

"We call it a capping process," he said.

In response to Attagutsiak's concern over Inuit employment, Light said the mine is making more efforts to bring the number of Northern employees up.

Later this month the mine is planning to meet with Arctic Bay elders and discuss discipline at the mine and find out why some Inuit have such a tough time making it to work on time.

Light said there's always been a problem getting miners in Arctic Bay to get to work on time, to stay with the company and go on into apprenticeship programs.

"I think we're working hard to increase our northern employees," said Light.