By the very nature of our business, we depend on the natural environment, and we must do what we can to protect it.
Approximately 126 hectares of additional habitat was accessed at the Ekati mine in 2016 due to mine development activities, such as the Sable Road construction, Jay crusher pad expansion, and expansion of the Lynx and Pigeon pits.
The mine footprint now stands at 3,526 hectares, or 2.22% of the total area covered under the land leases for the mine.
Dominion 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 the occurrence and disturbance of vehicle or air traffic on wildlife. Foxes, hares, ground squirrels, and ptarmigan are most commonly affected, as was the case in 2016, with ten vehicle-related wildlife fatalities occurring around the mine site. 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. Based on Traditional Knowledge (TK) that was shared by the communities, inokhoks or inukshuks (traditional rock structures that mimic the figure of a human) 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 the mine 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 waste management practices earned us a TSM Environmental Excellence Award.
Our Wildlife Effects Monitoring Program (WEMP) 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 WEMP report and the Ekati Diamond Mine Environmental Agreement and Water Licence Annual Report posted on the Wek’èezhìi Land and Water Board website.
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 21,695 caribou were counted in the area in 2016, among the highest recorded since observations began in 2006.
There were incidental sightings of six individual moose. Observations of moose at the Ekati mine have become more common in recent years, with 32 sightings from 2013 to 2016. The increase has prompted us to review moose movements and occurrences near the mine.