By the very nature of our business, we depend on the natural environment, and we must do what we can to protect it.
In 2015, about 106 hectares of land and water were affected at the Ekati mine site due to mine development and operations. As a result, the current total mine footprint now stands at almost 3,400 hectares. The amount of annual habitat loss has decreased over the years, as most habitat loss occurred during mine construction.
The Ekati mine footprint is 2.14% of the total area covered under the land leases for the mine. As mining activities progress, some areas are reclaimed once mining in that area comes to a close. Other areas will be returned to a natural or productive state once the mine is closed.
Dominion Diamond conducts a variety of wildlife management activities where actual or possible interactions may pose a safety risk to animals or humans. For example:
- Traffic mitigation efforts are aimed at reducing occurrence and disturbance of vehicle or air traffic on wildlife. In 2015, there were nine vehicle-related wildlife deaths around the mine site – down from 19 deaths recorded in 2014. The affected wildlife included foxes, hares, ground squirrels, and ptarmigan. There have not been any caribou fatalities from interactions with traffic at the Ekati mine. We post speed limits, communicate road closures site-wide, educate staff about wildlife safety and ensure that wildlife is always given the right-of-way. Inokhoks, or inukshuks (traditional rock structures), are also used to deter wildlife from approaching high traffic areas. The safety of caribou herds is ensured through visual monitoring, temporary road closures, site-wide notifications, and wildlife signage.
- Waste from the mine site is carefully managed to keep materials that might attract or harm wildlife out of landfills. Proper disposal of waste is an ongoing challenge that staff takes seriously. Inspections are regularly performed on waste bins and the landfill to ensure that waste is being disposed of correctly. Regular employee education sessions are conducted to stress the dangers posed to wildlife and mine personnel from improperly disposed waste.
Our Wildlife Effects Monitoring Program focuses on animals that are considered to be particularly important or have special conservation status. The program looks at the effects mining activities can have on the health of these animals and helps scientists determine how best to minimize these impacts.
We track sightings of caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, foxes, wolverines, and nesting birds, and report our findings in the Ekati Diamond Mine Environmental Agreement and Water Licence Annual Report. A plain language summary of the 2015 Annual Report can be accessed here.
Caribou are the most abundant and wide-ranging large mammals in the Arctic and are an important food source for the Dene and Inuit people. Caribou herds generally pass through the Ekati mine area twice a year. An estimated 264 caribou were counted in the area in 2015, among the lowest recorded since observations began in 2006. The Long Lake Containment Facility was surveyed and no caribou were observed. Evidence from caribou tracks and observed behaviour suggests that processed kimberlite does not affect caribou movement, nor does it appear to attract caribou.