Yukon’s environmental assessment board needs more information about the Coffee mine

This marks the fourth request for further information from YESAB

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board (YESAB) put in another request for more information on Goldcorp’s proposed Coffee mine on March 14, which means further delays in the recommendation process for the long-awaited potential gold mine.

The request comes, in part, from changes to the mining plan for the site submitted in a prior supplementary information package to YESAB Feb. 27.

These changes include “an increase in expected mining, crushing and processing rates in the early years of the project,” the use of conveyor belts instead of diesel trucks, changes to the infrastructure to accommodate the increased crushing and mining rates, changes to the location of the explosive storage facility and in the location of an exploration and mining camp for the Java site, the request document notes.

Once the additional information is received, YESAB’s executive committee will “pause” the assessment – provided the information is deemed sufficient – to notify the public and decision making bodies of the project’s change of scope and hold another public comment period “in order to ensure participants have an opportunity to submit their views.”

Rob Yeomans, a spokeperson for YESAB, said that with the release of the fourth request, the board is actually handling two requests for information concurrently, as the third request — levied November 2018 — is still in play. YESAB expects to makes a decision about whether or not the third request — which contained 72 questions, many of which had additional subquestions — is complete or not by March 21.

Goldcorp has up to two years to submit requested additional information under YESAB’s rules, he said, although the company has indicated it “expects” to submit in one to two months.

Once the information is received, YESAB has 21 business days to review it. Only after both open requests for information are deemed complete by the organization will they be able to proceed to another public consultation process, and it’s “always possible” that there might be a fifth request, he said.

The Coffee mine proposal was first submitted to YESAB Dec. 20, 2017.

Given the size and nature of this project, it is actually “moving along quite well” in the assessment process, Yeomans noted. The length of the assessment process is in keeping with other past projects of this size and a nature.

YESAB is requesting seven specific pieces of information. The most complex question, which has eight subquestions, requests more “detailed information” specific to the proposed changes, including schedules, infrastructure alterations, and scheduling and use of the exploration camp.

YESAB also wants information on any changes of location and design to the altered or additional infrastructure, an updated model for a water leaching facility, an updated site-wide water balance model, an overview of an updated water quality model, an updated air quality model and, “where necessary … a clearly articulated rationale for why certain valued components require, or do not require, updated effects assessments.”

This marks the fourth request for further information from YESAB for the project. The previous third request for information, levied in November 2018, had 72 questions, many of which had their own subquestions.

The changes to the mining plan, as well as the additional requests for information from YESAB and the delays in the process they bring about for Goldcorp are all “part of the plan,” Roger Souckey, director of sustainability and human resources for the company said.

“We were expecting (these requests) and we will walk our way through the request,” he said.

“Somethings will take longer than others,” he added.

Goldcorp has previously said it hopes to get $2.4 billion out of the project.

Lewis Rifkind, mining analyst for the Yukon Conservation Society, called the alterations to the Coffee plan “a major design change” but noted that the changes are “honest” – mine plans change as part of the development process he said.

“From an environmental point of view, YESAB is doing its job.”

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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