Agnico Eagle's board of directors has given the go-ahead for construction of the Meliadine and Amaruq gold mines in Nunavut.

The company says it expects to invest $1.2 billion in the new mine sites.

The Meliadine mine is located 25 km north of Rankin Inlet. Amaruq is a satellite deposit of the existing Meadowbank mine 110 km north of Baker Lake.

Meliadine has been approved by the Nunavut Impact Review Board. Permitting is still pending for Amaruq.

The company says it plans to have the two gold mining sites up and running by the fall of 2019. That means Meliadine will be opening a year earlier than expected.

"It's creating a huge opportunity for the Kivalliq and Rankin Inlet especially, where we are going to create jobs and a whole lot of training opportunities," said Dominique Girard, vice-president - Nunavut with Agnico Eagle.

He said the company expects to have the Meliadine camp facility ready by the second quarter of this year, and to finish building the shells for facilities like the power plant and mill by the end of the year. 

Unlike at Meadowbank, mining will be mainly underground, with the later addition of an open pit. The expected mine life is 14 years.

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Gold miners work in the open pit mine at Agnico Eagle's Meadowbank site near Baker Lake, Nunavut, in 2011. The company has also green lit development of the Amaruq deposit that is expected to keep Meadowbank's employees working after the current gold deposit is exhausted. (Canadian Press)

Amaruq to keep Meadowbank staff working

Ore mined from the Amaruq deposit will be processed at the Meadowbank mine site, about 60 km away. Mining at the Meadowbank deposit, which began producing gold in 2010, is expected to wind down in 2018.

With Amaruq not expected to open until 2019, Girard said that still leaves "a small gap" between operations at that mine, but they're "working to close that gap."

"At the end of the day our goal is to keep all the jobs at Meadowbank and continue with that crew," he said.

"So that means we need to hire a complete crew for the Meliadine site — including contractors, approximately 1,000 employees."

However, he added that workers at Meadowbank who live in Rankin Inlet could transfer to Meliadine.

Girard said the company expects about about 300 to 350 of the new hires for Meliadine will be Inuit.

The Kivalliq Inuit Association could not accommodate CBC's request for an interview.

with files from Jordan Konek