Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. Thank you for this opportunity to talk about local environmental initiatives that we have undertaken in Canada in partnership with not-for-profit organizations.
Agnico Eagle is a Canadian gold mining company that has been producing precious metals since 1957. We operate eight mines in Canada, mainly in Quebec and Nunavut, as well as in Mexico and Finland, and we employ more than 6,200 people worldwide.
Let's talk first about some of our initiatives in Nunavut.
Our operating mine in Nunavut, the Meadowbank mine, is located 110 kilometres from the hamlet of Baker Lake in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. We've been operating the mine since 2010, providing employment to about 280 Inuit workers from the region, or about 35% of our workforce. Since start-up, the mine has provided over $80 million in wages and $940 million in supply contracts with Nunavut-based companies.
Since the mine's opening, Meadowbank has undertaken environmental initiatives in the area of waste and wildlife management. The stakeholders we've been partnering with in the region are the local hamlet of Baker Lake, the Government of Nunavut's environmental department, and universities.
Nunavut is a remote territory and has no local facility to deal with hazardous waste or waste recycling. This makes waste management more complex for both the Meadowbank mine and the nearby hamlet of Baker Lake. A few initiatives were undertaken by Agnico Eagle in cooperation with Baker Lake in the area of waste management.
We were asked by the Hamlet of Baker Lake for help in addressing how they could better manage hazardous waste accumulating at their municipal landfill site. These accumulated wastes had no form of containment. We brought in an external Nunavut-based environmental company, which worked with the hamlet to sort through this material, remove it from the landfill, place it in appropriate packaging, and load it into shipping containers that we then shipped to licenced waste-handling facilities in the south. A total of 25 containers were prepared for shipment during the 2011 shipping season.
In addition, an old landfill in Baker Lake had been closed for over 20 years but was still used to store used barrels, obsolete heavy equipment, scrap metal, and used tires, which were strewn around the site. We endeavoured to work with the hamlet to clean up all this material and return the land as close as possible to its original state. A total of 354 tonnes of scrap metal and 94 tonnes of old tires were recovered and shipped from Baker Lake to Bécancour, Quebec, during the annual sealift in 2011, to be safely disposed of at licensed recycling companies in southern Canada. Over a three-week period, Agnico staff, with the help of five local members, diligently restored the site. The program cost Agnico Eagle an estimated $75,000.
In 2014 the Meadowbank employee environmental committee undertook an initiative to recycle wood pallets with the community of Baker Lake. Meadowbank already sorts its materials before disposal. Hazardous materials and metal are separated and shipped south each year for proper disposal or reuse. It became obvious that wooden pallets could also be reused. Instead of being sent to landfill for disposal, used pallets that are clean and free from contamination are now collected and taken to the community. One major user is the local high school shop class, where the teacher plans projects for students to learn woodworking skills and produce usable items such as sheds and sleds. In 2014 more than 500 pallets were saved from the landfill and reused.
Nunavut is a huge territory, and it is difficult for the Government of Nunavut to gather data to help in their wildlife management. Agnico Eagle has helped in the area of caribou migration tracking, raptor protection, and aquatic life monitoring. We believe that increased understanding of terrestrial and aquatic life in Nunavut will help minimize the effects of project development.
For the past decade, there has been much debate about the reliability of information about migration patterns and herd ranges of barren land caribou populations, particularly the status of the Beverly caribou herd. In 2009, the population was reported to have sharply declined. Elders held the belief that the population had rather likely shifted its calving grounds to the north. We began participating in the caribou collaring and satellite tracking program in 2008. The program involves the mining industry, caribou management boards, and the Government of Nunavut Department of Environment. The tracking information gathered to date indicates that the Beverly caribou herd has indeed shifted its calving grounds from the central barrens near Baker Lake to the coastal regions around Queen Maud Gulf.
To date Meadowbank has funded the deployment of 25 caribou collars for a cost of over $250,000. In 2011 Meadowbank contributed an additional $35,000 to estimate the number of breeding females in the Beverly herd. In 2013 we committed to an additional three-year contribution in support of the regional caribou monitoring program.
We also work closely with the University of Guelph to improve aquatic monitoring methods and to inform future aquatic ecology research in the north. Furthermore, we've worked on refining current methods of evaluating fish habitat and productivity of a fishery with consultants and academic researchers and provided our raw fish out data and habitat mapping to DFO scientists. At the regional level the data and tools used at Meadowbank are currently being applied by Agnico Eagle and other consultants at other proposed projects in Nunavut. We believe that these improvements in understanding of aquatic ecology will help future management of the resource.
Agnico Eagle has also been working with the University of Alberta and a local group of wildlife experts based in Rankin Inlet on site-specific protective measures for raptors at Meadowbank. We are also working to extend terrestrial modelling to include linkages to aquatic food webs, which will also assist to inform productivity models.
The raptors and fisheries researchers are training future master's students and local field assistants while collecting valuable monitoring data.
I will now move to environmental initiatives in the Abitibi region where we own and operate three mines and are in a joint partnership for the operation of a fourth mine. Our partners in that region are the Quebec Ministry of Forest, Wildlife and Parks, the Val-d'Or hunting and fishing organization, our local cottagers' association, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Mining and Environment Research Institute.
In 2014 the Quebec Ministry of Forest, Wildlife and Parks with the assistance of the Val-D'or hunting and fishing association, the Sabourin Lake cottagers' association, Agnico Eagle, and other stakeholders launched a program aimed at protecting the woodland caribou herd in the Val-D'or area of Quebec. The Val-d'Or woodland caribou herd was down to 20 individuals. Inventories of recent years indicated a high mortality rate among calves, whose survival is crucial to maintaining and increasing the herd.
The program aimed at capturing pregnant females to protect them during the calving period but also to protect calves during their first weeks of life, when they are most vulnerable to predators. Calves born in May and June are kept in an enclosure with their mother and monitored until early in July before being released into their natural habitat. This pilot project was supervised by biologists and veterinarians specialized in the management of large mammals. Such work has already been carried out successfully elsewhere, including in the Yukon. Collaboration was built with the Yukon team and resulted in the active participation of a Yukon veterinarian in the 2014 campaign.
The program shows promising results. The first-born calf of the 2015 campaign is already up and about following his mother, and two weeks ago we had a second birth with a third on the way.
Now I'd like to talk about our partnership to rehabilitate an orphaned tailings site. In 2004 we were looking for potential locations for a future tailings impoundment for the Goldex mine in Val-D'or. The Goldex material was chemically inert and had neutralization potential. We partnered with the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources to use this material to rehabilitate the acid-generating orphaned Manitou tailings site that had been contaminating the Bourlamaque River for decades. Rehabilitation started in 2008 with the start-up of the mine and is now more than 50% completed.
The Mining and the Environment Research Institute is also involved in this project. Overall, this cooperation will save taxpayers' money, reduce the footprint of the Goldex mine, and resolve an environmental problem.
This concludes my remarks. I thank you once again for the opportunity to appear before the committee today, and I would be pleased to answer your questions.