Following further consultation with First Nations that might be affected by the development of a gold mine south of Dawson City, the decision-making federal agencies are sending the project plan back to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assesment Board (YESAB) for further review.
The YESAB executive committee published their screening report about the Coffee Gold Mine project on Oct. 12. The mine proposed by its owner the Newmont Corporation is expected to have a lifespan of 24 years including construction and reclamation. The company proposes to mine about 67 million tones of ore. The proposed site is 130 km from Dawson, accessible on planned 214 km access road.
YESAB’s executive committee had said in their screening report that the project could go ahead without a panel review from the YESAB board because in their view the project will not significantly contribute to cumulative adverse effects.
Transport Canada and Natural Resources Canada, the Federal decision bodies charged with approving, denying or altering the executive committee’s decision about the project, disagreed. A Nov. 26 letter from Transport Canada referred the matter back to the executive committee for reconsideration.
The YESAB executive committee had said in their report that the project could proceed without a review so long as recommended mitigations were put in place. Some of the mitigations recommended in the Oct. 12 report are: some public access controls on the access road and the barge landings; the hiring of a caribou behaviour expert; design features to reduce the likelihood of animal entrapment; and design features that reduce noise, visual, and light stimuli in alpine and subalpine habitats.
The committee also asked for a revision of the project’s water quality objectives and a plan to facilitate traditional land use of the area where safe and possible among other recommendations.
The report acknowledged the value of roadless areas but compared this project to others where more road had to be created. According to the screening report, 37 km of new road will have to be built on a route with existing placer and quartz claims that mostly follows valleys with existing placer operations.
In the letter from Transport Canada requesting a closer look at the project, they say the decision bodies are interested in enabling further exchange of information about the cumulative effects of the project.
According to Transport Canada, potentially affected First Nations were invited to share their views. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, White River First Nation and Selkirk First Nation responded.
According to Transport Canada the decision bodies heard a range of perspectives on some outstanding issues related to cumulative effects, water quality, the scope and management of the access route to the mine site including access control, and short timelines for consultation to support decision-making.
“Among the range of concerns raised by First Nations, some can be addressed in Yukon regulatory processes, but there are others that would be best be considered in a referral,” the letter reads.
The decision bodies are asking the YESAB executive committee to provide more information on the cumulative effects of the mine.
The panel review that the YESAB executive committee stopped short of launching, may now be under reconsideration. A panel review is the third and highest tier of assessment of a project allowed under the The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA). A panel review is led by a panel with members drawn from YESAB board members, which may include Executive Committee members but not the chair of the board.
The White River First Nation was calling for a panel review of the project as early as the spring of 2018.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org