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Canada's Agnico says Nunavut hearings delayed amid rise in COVID-19 cases

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By Jeff Lewis

TORONTO, April 30 (Reuters) - Canada's Arctic territory Nunavut has delayed public hearings about a key water disposal project at Agnico Eagle Mines' Meliadine gold mine, a company executive said on Friday, as the region grapples with a new wave of coronavirus.

The mineral-rich territory extended a public health emergency to May 13 on Thursday after the number of active COVID-19 cases hit 50, with Canada battling a third wave of infections largely driven by new variants.

Meliadine is an underground and open pit gold mine located near the western shore of Hudson Bay in the Kivalliq district of Nunavut, about 25 km (16 miles) north of Rankin Inlet.

Toronto-based Agnico is seeking approval to pipe excess groundwater from the mine into the Arctic Ocean and increase contaminants it can legally dispose of in a nearby lake.

Public hearings set for May 17-20 in Rankin Inlet have been indefinitely postponed, senior vice-president of operations for Canada and Europe Dominique Girard said on an analyst call.

There will be no operational impact due to lower-than-expected inflows of groundwater at the mine, he said.

Inuit leaders previously said pandemic lockdowns had hindered talks with Agnico over the plans.

The delay comes a day after top gold miner Newmont Corp said it had paused operations at its Musselwhite mine in Ontario province to limit the virus spread.

Agnico in January agreed to buy struggling TMAC Resources, increasing its sizeable presence in Nunavut, where it also operates the Meadowbank gold complex.

The miner said 219 employees, mostly in Mexico, tested positive for COVID-19 in the first quarter. (Reporting by Jeff Lewis; Editing by David Clarke)