a cynical season

December is meant to be a time of rest and relaxation.

December is meant to be a time of rest and relaxation.

Those who have thought ahead have cleverly scheduled their vacations over both the Christmas and the New Year holidays thus optimizing the number of days off from work without using up too many paid holidays.

But for those interested in environmental matters there is no rest.

The consultation process seems to really pick up over the festive season.

Cynics might argue that project proponents put in their paperwork at this time of year just to avoid scrutiny.

After all, with everyone wrapped up in the festive season they will not have time to properly participate in consultations.

But fear not.

Here is the festive season guide to those who want to keep an eye on some of the projects and proposals that will impact the environment.

Note that in most cases these are just proposals. This means reviewing paperwork, or the electronic equivalent.

While it is not appealing to anyone to wade through mountains of paperwork it is important to raise environmental concerns while the project is being permitted, and not while it is being built or operated.

Influencing a project at the planning stage is a damn site easier than trying to change it after it has received all of its permits and approvals.

Look at the Minto Mine and all its emergency water discharges.

If the mine had been designed correctly way back in the 90s a lot of the environmental concerns it is now causing would not be happening.

With that ongoing environmental boondoggle in mind here is a very incomplete list of who is doing what per the environmental permitting process over the festive season.

First off, there is still time to get comments in to the Yukon Environment and Socio-Economic Assessment Board about the Mactung Mine project.

North American Tungsten, which currently runs the Tungsten Mine just over the border in the Northwest Territories, is proposing an underground tungsten mine in east-central Yukon called the Mactung Mine.

The proposed project is located approximately eight kilometres northwest of Macmillan Pass on the North Canol Road. That is just before the Northwest Territories border.

This mine will mill tungsten ore at a rate of 2,000 tonnes per day and is expected to be in operation for 11 years.

Mining activities require a ravine dam and reservoir for water management, a dry-stacked tailings facility for tailings disposal and the use of water from a tributary of the Hess River.

Access to the mine site will be by air and by ground year-round along the North Canol Road.

Note that the physical upgrading of the North Canol Road is not part of this YESAB application.

Deadline for comments is December 7th.

The Yukon Environment and Socio-Economic Assessment Board is also looking at an application for the continued operation and management of the existing city of Whitehorse landfill.

This is for the next three years, until the end of December 2011.

The landfill receives approximately 15,000 to 20,000 tonnes of waste per year, compacting and burying this material. There is a public drop-off area, recycling facility, and composting facility,

In addition it includes accepting vehicle batteries, appliances, tires, paint, e-waste, construction and demolition waste, scrap metals and twice a year hosting household hazardous waste collections.

Related to all of the above is the landfill environmental management, including sampling and reporting of surface water and groundwater quality twice yearly.

Deadline for public comments on this is December 29th.

Both the landfill and the mine projects can be reviewed online at www.yesab.ca.

Moving over to the Yukon Water Board there are two submissions there that might be of interest to those concerned about the impacts mining can have on the Yukon’s water ways.

The first one is the Sa Dana Hess Mine.

Basically, this submission involves tweaking security provisions to its water use licence.

This is to allow the mine to be maintained in a state of temporary closure for a further five year period to coincide with the expiry of both its production and water licences.

Deadline for comments is December 18th.

Then there is the Carmacks Copper project.

There is going to be an open-pit mine northwest of Carmacks.

Copper will be extracted using a rather risky process known as sulphuric acid heap leaching.

The project has, in spite of strong opposition, made it past the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment stage.

There is now a water licence application in front of the Yukon Water Board.

Because of the size of the project, the Yukon Water Board will be holding a public hearing in Whitehorse during February 2010.

Those who are interested in participating have until January 25th to apply to be an intervener.

In the meantime, there are nine very thick volumes of technical information to wade through at www.yukonwaterboard.ca.

As if that was not enough excitement, there is always the Yukon government’s consultation on independent power producers and net metering.

An independent power producer is a company or individual that generates electricity for sale to utilities such as Yukon Energy or Yukon Electrical.

Net metering allows electricity customers to sell surplus electricity produced from small-scale renewable energy sources.

Deadline for submission of comments is January 29.

A discussion paper can be downloaded from the Energy, Mines and Resources website at www.emr.gov.yk.ca.

Given all the consultations that are occurring and the submission deadlines looming it looks like it is going to be a busy festive season.

Unless, of course, one gets distracted by family, friends and feasting and does not have time to provide input on all these environmental issues.

Surely that is not what the proponents of these projects and initiatives have intended.

As stated above, that is only the viewpoint of the cynics among us and the holiday season is not the place for them.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time cynical environmentalist.