Comments received during the pre-consultation period: Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations
2013 Department Guidelines: Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Guidelines for the Assessment of Alternatives for Mine Waste Disposal (2013)
2015 Stantec Report: Sisson Project - Final Environmental Impact Assessment Report - February 2015
AA Report: Assessment of Alternatives Report prepared by Sisson Partnership available at Sisson website (Assessment of Tailings Management Alternatives).
AFNCNB: Assembly of First Nations Chiefs of New Brunswick
ARD/ML: Acid rock drainage/metal leaching
BAT: best available technology
CEAA: Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
COSEWIC: Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada
COD: Certificate of Determination in which the EIA 40 conditions are included
CSR: Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Project (CEAA 2016)
DELG: New Brunswick Department of Environment and Local Government
DFO: Department of Fisheries and Oceans
EA: Environmental Assessment conducted by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (2016)
EIA: Environmental Impact Assessment conducted by the province of New Brunswick
ENGO: Environmental Non-Governmental Organization
FHCP: Fish Habitat Compensation Plan
FNEAWG: First Nations Environmental Assessment Working Group
HADD prohibition: harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat
HC: Health Canada
ITK: Indigenous Traditional Knowledge
IKS: Indigenous Knowledge Study
LAA: Local Assessment Area
MAA: multiple accounts analysis
MAC: Mining Association of Canada
Mt: mega tonne
MDMER: Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations
MTI: Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn
NPAG: non-potentially acid generating
NRCan: Natural Resources Canada
PAG: potentially acid generating
PDA: project development area
PNB: Province of New Brunswick
Proponent: Sisson Partnership
SARA/NB: New Brunswick’s Species at Risk Act
TIA: tailings impoundment area
TSF: tailings storage facility
TKS: Traditional Knowledge Study
UNDRIP: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
WNNB: Wolastoqey Nation of New Brunswick
Assessment of alternatives
|Reference Number||Comments||Department of the Environment responses, informed by input from the Proponent|
|1||Explain why an option that does not use fish frequented water was not considered.||The Proponent confirmed during the consultations sessions that an option that would not affect a fish frequented water body was considered. However, streams and lakes can be found everywhere in the project area. As a result, it was not possible to identify a location that would allow the storage of a large volume of mine waste without affecting fish-bearing waters.|
|2||Several members of the public, ENGOs and an organization representing First Nations have commented that only two similar options for the tailings impoundment area were assessed.||
The Proponent began the Alternative Assessment (AA) exercise by investigating five potential sites and three technologies for a total of fifteen potential options. In the pre-screening analysis, two of the technologies were deemed not suitable and sites covering lakes were deemed “fatally flawed”. In the AA report, lakes were identified as valuable resources having particular ecological values as well as being of importance for Aboriginal and recreational fisheries. As such, environmental effects on these resources would likely be deemed “significant”. Lakes were also assumed as protected due to New Brunswick’s Water Classification Regulation 2002-13 made under the Clean Water Act (Section 18). Therefore, the analysis concluded that only two site options were suitable for further analysis.
Additional information is available in section 6 of the AA Report available on the Proponent’s website.
|3||An organization representing First Nations commented that the Proponent set a limit of 10 km from the plant site to identify the locations of potential sites. The selection of a 10 km radial distance seems very limiting given the preferred options have a 7.5 km2 footprint and an 8 km long tailings dam. A broader view of potential tailings sites should be taken and input by First Nations on site selection criteria should be incorporated.||
The Proponent identified five separate sites within a 10 km radius of the proposed ore processing plant site to allow for storage of all tailings and waste rock from the Project. The selection of a 10 km radius considered not only the transport of tailings and waste rock to the TSF, but also the transport of reclaimed water back to the process plant. Furthermore, a radius of greater than 10 km would work against a key design principal to minimize the Project footprint by having much longer linear corridors to transport tailings and reclaim water, as well as waste rock hauling.
The Proponent also advised that throughout the EA process led by CEAA, all First Nations were engaged through the First Nation Environmental Assessment Working Group* (FNEAWG), which met approximately once every two months over a period of two years. This Working Group provided an opportunity for all participants to make comments and suggestions on the various environmental aspects of the Project.
*The purpose of the FNEAWG is to provide a forum for the Proponent to provide information to First Nations on various environmental aspects of the Sisson Mine Project and to provide a venue for First Nations to provide input on the potential impacts to Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. The Proponent organized and participated in fourteen meetings of the FNEAWG.
|4||An organization representing First Nations commented that it may not be the best option to have all the facilities draining in the Napadogan Brook watershed, and their knowledge could help the Proponent in identifying the most potentially suitable areas from a First Nation perspective.||
The Proponent’s intention to release treated effluent into one watershed is based on efforts to reduce the overall footprint of the Project. Limiting the release of treated effluent to one sub-watershed of the Napadogan Brook watershed should also improve the ability to monitor and mitigate potential effects.
Although the FNEAWG did not put forward a specific suggestion, the Proponent recognizes the need for a program to (a) verify the accuracy of the environmental assessment of the Project, and (b) determine the effectiveness of any measures taken to mitigate the adverse environmental effects of the Project. In the fall of 2014, the Proponent presented the First Nations with a Framework for Environmental Monitoring and Follow Up as a means to engage with First Nations following the provincial EIA decision.
|5||FNs interests should be incorporated throughout the development of the site selection and screening process, as well as in the MAA. This can be accomplished through the completion of an Indigenous Knowledge study (IKS) and Land Use study.||
The draft AA Report along with the Proponent’s responses to comments pertaining to a First Nations Indigenous Knowledge Study (IKS), and the extent such matters were considered in the draft AA Report, were shared with the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs of New Brunswick (AFNCNB) on November 10, 2014.
A draft of the Sisson Project: Proposed Framework for First Nations Participation in the Follow Up and Monitoring Program was developed and provided to the FNEAWG for review and comment. A meeting was held with First Nations and their consultants on October 8, 2014 to discuss and address comments on the Framework.
Three First Nations collaborated on a TKS (funded by Sisson Partnership) in 2012/2013. A summary of the information can be found in section 8.13 Current Use of Land and Resources for Traditional purposes by Aboriginal Persons of the 2015 Stantec Report.
In September 2018, the Proponent sent a letter to the Chiefs of the Maliseet First Nations seeking input on how they would like to be engaged in the implementation of three provincial EIA conditions relating to the engagement of First Nations.
|6||The Proponent decided that site options incorporating a lake within the footprint were rejected as having a “fatal flaw” because lakes are protected under New Brunswick’s Water Classification Regulation. Since the ideal site needs to keep PAG tailings and waste rock saturated in perpetuity, this should not be used to eliminate such sites as they may in fact be the preferred site, all other factors being considered. Therefore, the pre-screening criterion regarding covering a lake should be revisited.||As identified in Section 6.3 of the AA Report, choosing a site with a lake may have led to more significant adverse effects. As is the practice in assessing effects, avoidance of an adverse effect is preferred. Since there were options to avoid affecting lakes, sites that do not include a lake in the footprint of the TSF were chosen to avoid potentially significant adverse environmental effects.|
|7||Public, ENGOs and an organization representing First Nations commented that the technology chosen for slurry tailings was not determined to be the best available technology, but the best financially achievable option. The two other technologies were rapidly screened out of the analysis.||Three tailings processing technologies were assessed: thickened tailings (i.e. paste), filtered tailings and conventional slurry. The geochemical characteristics of the waste rock and the substantial volume of material required the use of a technology that would effectively prevent the onset of acid rock drainage and metal leaching (ARD/ML) conditions. This was a fundamental requirement of the water and waste management design criteria for the Project. Conventional slurry tailings met the criteria for good management of potentially ARD/ML materials, whereas the other two technologies did not, and therefore the other two were screened out.|
|8||ENGOs, an organization representing First Nations and the public commented that the AA did not explain the advantages and disadvantages of separating the non-PAG and PAG tailings. During the provincial EIA, it was proposed that having the non-PAG wastes isolated would allow the open pit to be filled with rocks instead of water, which would reduce the size of the TIA.||
The separation of potentially acid generating (PAG) tailings from non-potentially acid generating (NPAG) tailings has become common practice in the industry, as it affords the ability to manage tailings with differing characteristics in the most appropriate manner. The volume of PAG tailings for the Project is approximately 5% of the total tailings. Submerging the PAG tailings within the much larger amount of NPAG tailings is an effective means to prevent the onset of ARD/ML. Managing the PAG tailings in a separate facility is possible; however, it is less desirable for a variety of reasons, including creating a larger footprint for the Project. The proposed TSF planned by the Proponent will manage similar volumes of tailings (PAG and NPAG) and waste rock.
Managing these waste materials requires long-term saturation of the PAG tailings and waste rock in order to prevent the onset of ARD/ML, which is achieved by encapsulating NPAG tailings and ensuring long-term saturation of the PAG materials. The creation of separate facilities to manage PAG and NPAG tailings would not include encapsulation of PAG tailings by the NPAG tailings and the saturation of the PAG tailings would have to occur through other means (such as a full water cover). The separation would lead to a smaller PAG TSF that would require long-term maintenance, in addition to the existing TSF (of nearly the same size), which would still have the NPAG tailings and waste rock. Creating multiple storage facilities would lead to increased risk and a larger project footprint.
|9||Members of the public, ENGOs, and an organization representing First Nations commented that all possible options to reduce the footprint of the tailings impoundment area were not considered. For example, the Proponent did not explore the option to temporarily store waste rock close to the mine site and move it to the open pit at closure before filling the pit with water.||
Based on the AA Report, the Project will generate 287 Million tonnes (Mt) of waste rock and 282 Mt of tailings. The TSF has been designed to manage all tailings and the majority of the waste rock (209 Mt of 287 Mt in total). The remaining 25% of the waste rock will be backfilled into the pit starting in about year 20.
The Proponent estimates that storing the tailings alone in the TSF would reduce the current planned footprint of the facility by 15% or 120 ha. It was estimated that a footprint of 140 ha would be required to temporarily store the waste rock on land. Additionally, a large portion of the waste rock could potentially generate ARD/ML so contact water would need to be collected from the waste rock pile and be treated in a wastewater treatment plant. Having a temporary waste rock storage facility in addition to a stand-alone TSF would result in a larger overall Project footprint, which could result in loss of vegetation and wildlife habitat, and possibly additional permanent loss of fish-bearing habitat.
The Proponent estimates that it would take 10 years to backfill the open pit with waste rock and that, due to waste rock density, one quarter of the waste rock would not fit in the open pit and would have to be managed in the proposed TSF.
The Proponent is of the opinion that there are substantive challenges that come with managing the potentially ARD/ML waste rock in a separate facility, with very little potential gain. Additional disadvantages include:
· Increased overall Project footprint;
· Increased loss of terrestrial habitat;
· Likely increased loss of fish habitat;
· Increase of water surplus due to increased footprint;
· Need for an additional water treatment plant to manage potentially acidic runoff for 20+ years;
· Need for a substantially larger reclamation bond to backfill 209 Mt of waste rock 20+ years in the future;
· Separate costs to backfill waste rock to the pit for 20+ years in the future (given that the reclamation pond cannot be used by the mine if they are still operating); and
· Creation of a multi-decade potentially acid-generating waste rock facility would be subject to regulations.
Members of the public, ENGOs and an organization representing First Nations commented that the Proponent should have comprehensively assessed the potential differences in seepage and impacts to groundwater between conventional slurry, thickened tailings and filtered dry stack tailings disposal and hybrid tailings disposal methods.
Storing PAG tailing material subaqueously is known as current best practice in waste rock management but not necessarily Best Available Technology (BAT). BAT should be explored instead of using the cheapest technology option.
A description of these technologies that highlight the differences and other considerations was included in Section 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3 of the AA Report.
The only difference between the inherent physical properties of the thickened tailings (paste), filtered tailings and conventional tailings would be the moisture content of the tailings at the time of deposition. Regardless of the tailings technology chosen, similar design criteria would need to be met. Hence, no substantive difference in seepage rate between the three technologies, if any, is considered.
With respect to potential groundwater and surface water contamination, the conventional tailings option is expected to be more favourable than thickened tailings (paste) and filtered tailings, since it is the most likely to mitigate the onset of ARD/ML.
In addition, there are a number of definitions of Best Available Technology (BAT). The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) defined BAT in their Guide to the Management of Tailings Facilities, Third Edition. The Guide states: “Best Available Technology is the site-specific combination of technologies and techniques that is economically achievable and that most effectively reduces the physical, geochemical, ecological, social, financial, and reputational risks associated with tailings management to an acceptable level during all phases of the life cycle, and supports an environmentally and economically viable mining operation.”
Co-disposal of waste rock with segregated slurry tailings was deemed BAT for the Project due to a number of factors that included the geochemical characteristics and relative volumes of the waste materials requiring management, operations at a location with cold winter climate with high annual net precipitation conditions, a site that will operate in a surplus water condition, and keeping the footprint as small as possible to minimize impacts to the biophysical environment.
|11||Members of the public, ENGOs and an organization representing First Nations requested that alternative disposal technologies be included in the AA for the different wastes generated by the mine operation.||
The Proponent estimated that the waste rock from the Project was mostly PAG, and as such, it cannot be feasibly segregated. Therefore, when creating the fatal flaw criteria during the development of the AA Report, the long-term geochemical stability of the waste rock was identified as a key requirement.
The volume of PAG tailings for the Project is approximately 5% of the total tailings. Submerging the PAG tailings within the much larger NPAG tailings mass is an effective means to prevent the onset of ARD/ML conditions by preventing oxidation. While managing the PAG tailings in a separate facility is possible, it is less desirable for a variety of reasons, including the creation of a larger project footprint.
Members of the public, an organization representing First Nations and ENGOs commented that the Assessment of Alternatives was not rigorous nor complete, namely regarding the assessment of economic aspects of the options.
Furthermore, no external references were included to justify the conclusions presented. It was further proposed that a third-party review be carried out of the TSF component of the project to confirm that the option chosen is really the best available technology for this particular mine.
The Proponent submitted a report that assesses alternatives for mine waste disposal (i.e., AA Report). Officials from the Department of the Environment reviewed the report to ensure compliance with the guidance provided in their Guidelines for the Assessment of Alternatives for Mine Waste Disposal (2013) (2013 Department Guidelines).
As stated in the AA Report, the process as outlined in the 2013 Department Guidelines was followed, which included the following 7 steps:
1. Identification of Candidate Alternatives
3. Alternatives Characterization
4. Multiple Accounts Ledger
5. Value-Based Decision Process
6. Sensitivity Analysis
Data used to conduct the AA was derived from a number of sources, including the baseline studies, impact assessment and Project Description, all of which are identified in the reference section of the AA Report and are publicly available.
|13||Members of the public, ENGOs and an organization representing First Nations commented that the multiple accounts analysis (MAA) provides little evidence-based or peer-science justification for the chosen indicators. An organization representing First Nations commented that the indicator score scales are not well explained, readily understandable and may not be justifiable. Finally, it is not clear how the MAA provides a useful or informative comparison between options, given that the outcome does not appear to depend on indicator scores or weighting of sub-accounts and accounts.||
In line with the 2013 Department Guidelines, the Multiple Accounts Analysis (MAA) was used as a decision-making tool to complete the assessment of alternatives for mine waste disposal. The MAA provides a framework for a value-based comparison of differing indicators, sub-accounts and accounts.
The sensitivity analysis is not intended to resolve the disparity between differing opinions on how weightings should be evaluated. However, the analysis does provide a platform for presenting these opinions in a transparent manner where any stakeholder or external reviewer can make their own value judgements about all interpretations of the case.
|14||Redundant indicators should not be used in the MAA. Consideration should be given to alternative indicators that are relevant to the sub-accounts but can differentiate between the alternatives under consideration.||
In the AA Report, the Proponent developed thirty-three indicators for the sub-accounts (Environmental, Socio-Economic, Technical and Economic) as part of Step 4 (Multiple Accounts Ledger); and as stated earlier, 11 were excluded. Hence, 22 indicators were included as follows:
· Environmental = 7
· Socio-Economic = 3
· Technical = 7
· Economic = 5
The Description and Rationale for each of the 22 indicators included in the MAA are presented in Tables 8.1, 8.3, 8.5 and 8.7 of the AA Report, which provide the rationale as to why these indicators in these sub-accounts follows the guidance outlined in the 2013 Department Guidelines.
ENGOs and an organization representing First Nations are concerned that there is an improper consideration of species at risk in the MAA. Legal obligations to protect species at risk and their habitat should be mentioned, as they could be considered as a “fatal flaw” for the two identified alternatives.
A question was raised on how alternative tailings management technologies or storage options could potentially reduce impacts on species at risk in the Project area.
The Species at Risk Act (SARA) requires responsible authorities to identify adverse effects of projects on listed species and their critical habitats and residences, and to ensure that these effects are mitigated, using measures consistent with species recovery strategies and action plans, as applicable, and monitored. Federal regulatory strategies are in place for some species at risk recorded near the Project Area, including Canada warbler (Cardellina canadensis), olive-sided flycatcher (Contopus cooperi), and common nighthawk (Cordeiles minor); however, no critical habitat for species at risk has been identified in the Project Development Area.
The 2015 Report prepared by Stantec considered species identified under New Brunswick’s Species at Risk Act (SARA/NB) in the assessment and determined that with mitigation, there would be no significant residual environmental effects, which includes no contravention of SARA/NB prohibitions, as included in the significance criteria
Additional details can be found in section 8.6 Terrestrial Environment and Appendix F – Availability of Resources for First Nation’s Traditional Use on Crown Land Near the Sisson Project of the 2015 Stantec Report.
|16||An organization representing First Nations was concerned about the weight given to Indigenous land use in the analysis of the two options considered for the tailings impoundment area. The socio-economic aspects of project development need to be incorporated in the assessment of Aboriginal interests.||
The value-based step of the Multiple Accounts Analysis (MAA), where weightings are applied to the various accounts and/or sub-accounts, is meant to assign relative importance of one or more types of indicators. The sensitivity analysis is meant to provide insight into how sensitive the results are to various accounts, sub-accounts and indicators. In Sensitivity case #5, the Proponent demonstrated the effect of making the Economic and Technical accounts worth zero, thus allowing the Environmental and Socio-economic Accounts to drive the results.
The AA methodology is to compare viable alternatives for managing tailings and waste rock using four broad categories (Environmental, Socio-economic, Technical and Economic). Where there is dominance of the Environmental account in sensitivity case #5 compared to the Socio-economic account, the Environmental sub-accounts (Water and Fisheries Resources, Terrestrial Habitat and Air Quality) are all of great importance. Hence, by using a heavy weighting for the Environmental account, the best site to minimize the impact on the environment is identified.
The 2013 Department Guidelines suggest the use of the following base-case weightings:
· Environmental = 6
· Socio-Economic = 3
· Technical = 3
· Economic = 1.5
The AA applied the suggested base-case weightings, and then varied the weightings through the sensitivity analyses. The indicator for Indigenous land use was part of the Socio-economic account and the base-case weightings. It also had equal value to the Technical account, half the value to the Environmental account and two times the value of the Economic account. As stated above, the sensitivity analysis allowed for increased relative value for the Socio-Economic sub-account and associated indicators.
|17||An ENGO commented that site 1b is the only option presented in assessment of alternatives. Under the Guidelines, the Assessment of Tailings Management Alternatives is to provide an analysis of a number of viable tailings management alternatives. However, relying on the base case analysis and the sensitivity analysis in the ATMA comparing Sites 1b and 1c, it is clear Site 1c was an inferior alternative.||
The AA Report began with five sites and three technology options. Sites 2, 3, and 4 were identified as “fatally flawed” and screened out because covering lakes would likely have a significant environmental effect and their aquatic habitat is protected by regulations in New Brunswick. From the three tailings storage technologies considered, conventional slurry tailings was identified as the best available technology (BAT). Therefore, only two options (sites 1b and 1c) underwent a detailed characterization as part of the multiple accounts analysis as described in the 2013 Department Guidelines.
While Site 1b was identified as the preferred option, Site 1c rated better on some indicators than Site 1b. The sensitivity analysis is not intended to resolve the disparity of how differing weightings should be evaluated. However, the analysis does provide a platform for presenting these weightings in a transparent manner where anyone can make their own value judgements about all interpretations of the case.
|18||Members of the public and an organization representing First Nations asked whether there had been any risk assessments related to extreme weather or climate change taken into account when designing the tailings impoundment area.||
The Proponent indicated that the TSF will be designed to account for extreme weather events and any increase in the frequency or intensity of weather events over the life of the Project. The TSF will be constructed to meet the Canadian Dam Association’s Dam Safety Guidelines and with sufficient capacity to store the probable maximum precipitation during operations and into post-closure.
As a requirement of condition 26 of the provincial EIA conditions: “The Proponent must provide TSF Failure Modelling conducted by a qualified third party for the final engineered design and for each approved lift of the TSF structure.“.
Members of the public, ENGOs and an organization representing First Nations were concerned that the costs associated with water treatment were not included in the assessment of alternatives, and could have had an impact in the determination of the best option for a tailings impoundment area.
An ENGO and an organization representing First Nations recommended that geochemical and water quality modelling must be conducted to assess the reasonable and “worst-case” timelines for pumping and water treatment post-closure, so that realistic cost estimates can be developed and incorporated in to the MAA.
The differences in costs related to directing water from the TSF to the pit at the mine closure stage were included in the closure cost estimates. Given that the materials and volumes being stored for each alternative are the same, the water treatment technology and amount of surplus water that must be managed will be the same. As the treatment technology is not variable, the costs are not expected to be a differentiator regardless of the inputs to the water quality modelling.
The cost associated with the proposed water treatment are presented in Appendix H of 2015 Stantec Report.
Members of the public, ENGOs and First Nation organizations expressed concerns about the effectiveness of the long-term water treatment and long-term risk of failure.
ENGOs commented that since water treatment will always be needed there are high chances of failure, especially after mine closure.
A citizen and an organization representing First Nations asked what would happen in the case of a failure of the water treatment that causes contamination to the environment.
The Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Project (CEAA 2016) explains the post-closure treatment of water in-pit lake is the same technology that is planned for the operations phase, with the exception that, during post-closure, the pit lake would serve the same purpose as the clarifier during operations. It should be noted that in-pit treatment would not be needed for nearly 40 years after operation commences. During that time, pilot testing and in-pit testing while the pit fills could be performed to refine the design and ensure that the treatment methodology is optimized and suitably protective of the downstream environment.
The Province of New Brunswick (PNB) establishes water quality objectives through the Province's Water Quality Approvals to Construct and Operate. Additionally, as part of the conditions of the provincial EIA approval, the PNB would review the final engineering design of all facilities, including wastewater treatment systems.
In 2016, based on advice from the Department of the Environment and PNB, CEAA indicated that it was satisfied that the provincial approach to establishing water quality objectives for the Project would be sufficient and would not result in significant effects on water quality.
Additionally, all effluent released from a metal mine must be within the authorized limits set out in the Schedule 4 of the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (MDMER). Furthermore, the MDMER require that owners and operators sample and test effluent to ensure compliance with the authorized limits. Mines are required to report to the Department of the Environment on the results of these tests. Annual reports are publicly available on the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations website. As the MDMER are regulations made pursuant to the Fisheries Act, enforcement personnel would, when verifying compliance with the MDMER act in accordance with the Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Habitat Protection and Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act.
|21||A First Nations organization inquired if plans for water treatment could be improved or augmented during operations and post-closure to mitigate the potential for downstream environmental effects in receiving surface waters.||The Proponent has indicated that as the Project moves to construction and operations, it may consider alternative means to treat water other than what is currently proposed. Mine Proponents often implement research programs once operations commence to develop field trials with the actual mined rock and tailings to learn about the site-specific conditions and adjust their final reclamation and closure plan.|
|22||A First Nation organization requested that the analysis of options include the use of constructed wetlands and/or other passive treatment methods as a tailings management option in the AA.||The Project has been approved by the PNB with the plan to use conventional water treatment. The use of wetlands and/or other passive treatment methods would be considered an optimization if proven to function at the Project site. Nevertheless, the use of alternate treatment technologies would not have a material effect on the selection of a preferred water treatment method, given that water treatment is assumed to be required regardless of the alternative selected. Therefore, the method of treatment is not differentiating.|
|23||First Nation organizations asked if Indigenous traditional knowledge was considered in the AA. First Nations interests should be incorporated throughout the development of the site selection and screening process, as well as in the MAA. This can be accomplished through the completion of an Indigenous Knowledge and Land Use Study led by First Nations.||
The Proponent recognizes the need for a program to (a) verify the accuracy of the environmental assessment of the Project, and (b) determine the effectiveness of any measures taken to mitigate the adverse environmental effects of the Project. A draft of the Sisson Project: Proposed Framework for First Nations Participation in the Follow Up and Monitoring Program was developed and provided to the First Nations Environmental Assessment Working Group (FNEAWG) for review and comment. A meeting was held with First Nations on October 8, 2014 to discuss and address comments on the Framework.
The provincial Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval outlines several conditions that will require the involvement and engagement of First Nations on the Project. In September 2018, the Proponent sent a letter to the Chiefs of the Maliseet First Nations seeking input on how they would like to be engaged in the implementation of three provincial EIA conditions relating to the engagement of First Nations, specifically conditions 18, 21 and 29i.
|24||An ENGO expressed concerns that the tailings impoundment perimeter will be unlined, and therefore there is risk of seepage of untreated toxic mine waste. After the mine completes its useful life, this risk will linger and potentially worsen given time and deterioration. This presents significant downstream risks for the fish, wildlife and people in the Nashwaak watershed, and should be considered in the FHCP.||
Only the solid waste products from the ammonium paratungstate (APT) plant will be stored in dedicated lined cells within the TSF. Following capping, the cells will become encapsulated with tailings and submerged beneath the wastewater during operations. This solid waste will total approximately 680 kt over the life of the Project. The APT will be stored in 6 lined cells that will represent a small portion of the tailing storage facility. The total waste rock disposed of in the TSF will be approximatively 209 Mt.
Under subsection 28(1) of the MDMER, all effluent deposited from a tailings impoundment area (TIA), including seepage containing a deleterious substance, must be discharged through a final discharge point and monitored and reported on.
The PNB will set specific water quality parameters with which the Proponent must comply. These parameters are based on the Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life (Freshwater). PNB also requires a water quality management plan as part of the Approval to Operate.
Condition 8 of the provincial approval requires the development of a Water Monitoring and Management Plan, including monitoring for ground water, surface water and tailings. The development of this Plan is a condition for the issuance of the Approval to Operate issued under the Water Quality Regulations.
Fish and fish habitat
|Reference Number||Comments||Department of the Environment responses, informed by input from the Proponent|
Concerns were raised that the proposed compensation plan will not generate the same type of habitat that will be impacted by the Project. The lost habitat will be from a cold-water riverine system that demonstrably supports the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) listed species (Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and American eel (Anguilla rostrate)), while the proposed offsetting habitat is a lacustrine system that may improve alewife (Gaspereau) (Alosa pseudoharengus), productivity, a fish that is so plentiful in the lower Saint John River system it is caught and used as bait.
Additional habitat compensation that will directly and immediately improve productive habitat and access for Atlantic salmon is needed to compensate adequately the loss of high quality fish habitat.
The purpose of the compensation plan is to offset the loss of fish habitat resulting from the deposit of any deleterious substance into the tailings impoundment area. The goal of the proposed FHCP is not to replace the lost of riverine habitat with the same type of habitat. The proposed offsetting measures provide enhanced fisheries productivity into the Nashwaak watershed to offset the loss of fish habitat due to the Project. The FHCP focuses on re-establishing the presence of alewife in the Nashwaak watershed:
To comply with DFO requirements, the Proponent is required to include additional information on how the proposed FHCP will offset the permanent loss of productivity due to the Project using equivalency metrics in its amended FHCP. The Proponent has committed to submit the outstanding information in an amended FHCP in the first quarter of 2019.
A member from the public commented that a discrete, one-time sampling aquatic survey was not sufficient to determine fish community composition and would not allow to record anadromous species and species that undergo migrations, such as the Atlantic Salmon. An organization representing First Nations also raised that a multi-season and multi-year habitat assessment should have been done, and that studies done by the Proponent did not follow best practices.
An organization representing First Nations requested that in order for the potential loss of Atlantic salmon spawning habitat to be assessed, surveys must be conducted during multiple seasons (including the spawning season) at locations where good quality habitat is identified. It also suggested that Indigenous knowledge from their group would be useful.
The Proponent used the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) rapid bioassessment methodologies in concert with electrofishing surveys and existing information on fish and fish habitat in the region to collect a description of the aquatic ecosystem within the project development area. The USEPA rapid bioassessment methodologies are an efficient manner to collect fish habitat information that are consistent with the habitat classification method commonly used, both federally and provincially, in New Brunswick. Together, these methods provide the information needed for a baseline environmental assessment.
During the federal EA phase of the Project, DFO determined that the baseline information used for the calculation of serious harm under its authorization and related offsetting processes was satisfactory (See Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Report (CEAA 2016), section 5.4.2). The Proponent also confirmed that it would continue to collect data to facilitate the comparison of natural variability with future project-related environmental effects. The collection of additional baseline information on fish and fish habitat is a recommendation of the federal EA and is included in the conditions of the Certificate of Determination (COD) issued by the province of New Brunswick in December 2015. The COD stipulates that additional fish related baseline information be collected with the input of First Nations.
|27||In order to gather pertinent information, it is recommended that the Proponent complete detailed fish habitat assessments of the Nashwaak Lake and Nashwaak River where the proposed offsetting activities will take place. Baseline surveys to determine the current limits of alewife range in the Nashwaak River should be completed that evaluate the passage of alewife through relevant reaches during spring migration.||
Per its application for a Fisheries Act authorization dated June 25 2014, the Proponent completed a survey of the existing Nashwaak Lake water control structure. In support of its proposed FHCP, the Proponent undertook surveys in May and June 2018 to demonstrate the presence of alewife in the upper reaches of the Nashwaak River. However, no alewife were observed or caught during these field efforts.
A fish passage analysis was provided to DFO on November 12, 2018 that demonstrates that Nashwaak Lake dam is a full barrier to alewife migration and other fish species. In the fish passage analysis, the Proponent provided a defendable rationale on how large numbers of alewife are not expected to be found homing into the upper reaches of the Nashwaak River at present, given that this section of the watershed has been inaccessible to alewife for many years. The Proponent has now added a conservation-focused reintroduction plan to its proposed FHCP. The Proponent has also accepted a recommendation from First Nations to include the removal of the Lower Lake Dam in the FHCP. The proposed FHCP now includes the following components:
The Proponent has committed to submit the outstanding information in an amended FHCP in the first quarter of 2019.
The Minister of the Environment must approve the FHCP before a deleterious substance can be deposited into a tailings impoundment area.
Interested parties commented that the fish habitat unit attribution was not explained or the calculations were not shown.
The fish habitat unit loss does not consider impacts from all of the construction that are inside and outside of the mining area (transmission line, roads, brook and river flow, etc.) and under-estimates the impact on the habitat.
|Per the definition of fish habitat unit included in section 2.1.2 of the Proponent’s offsetting plan (2014): 1 habitat unit = 100 m2. As presented in section 3.0 of the compensation plan proposed in 2014, the offsetting plan was designed to cover direct and indirect loss from the TIA, and the extraction of the ore in the open pit (see table 3.1 and 3.2).|
|29||Members of the public and an organization representing First Nations asked what the original purpose of the water-level dam was and what will the impact be if it is removed.||
The structure had likely been constructed to allow for temporary damming of the upriver waters to assist in downstream logging activities.
Under DFO’s Fisheries Act authorization process, the Proponent is required to provide detailed drawings of the proposed new watercourse crossing structure (single span wood bridge) at the outlet of Nashwaak Lake. These drawings will need to include the profile elevations and water control point(s) of the reconstructed channel to provide fish passage while maintaining water levels of the lake. The Proponent has committed to submit the outstanding information in an amended FHCP in the first quarter of 2019.
In 2015, the Proponent conducted a topographical survey at the reach between Nashwaak Lake and the existing structure. This survey indicated that the existing structure does not control the water level in Nashwaak Lake. Water levels in Nashwaak Lake appear to be controlled by a line of boulders located immediately at the Lake’s outlet at the Nashwaak River. Therefore, the water level in Nashwaak Lake, or any connected lotic habitats, will not be affected by the removal of the existing structure.
|30||Organizations representing First Nations requested that more alternatives for fish habitat compensation be provided as well as further detail and analysis on them.||
Lower Lake Dam had initially been presented to DFO as possible option for fish habitat compensation for the Project. Early in the process, the Proponent undertook a fish passage evaluation at Lower Lake Dam that consisted of establishing the physical and hydraulic conditions at the dam, developing stream flow statistics, and evaluating the extent to which the water depths and velocities at the dam were a barrier to fish passage. The results of the fish passage evaluation indicated that Lower Lake Dam was a partial barrier to adult fish in accessing spawning habitat or thermal refugia for the species considered and a full barrier for small resident brook trout (<10 cm) and juvenile Atlantic salmon at certain times of the year. DFO determined that the removal of the Lower Lake Dam as a standalone FHCP did not provide sufficient fish habitat gains to offset the loss of fish habitat resulting from the Project. Thus, the Proponent did not initially consider the option of removing the Lower Lake Dam, and put forward the Nashwaak Lake culvert removal/replacement as a compensation.
Appendix B of the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Report (CEAA 2016) (page 129) lists the alternatives for Fish Habitat Compensation considered by the Proponent, which include:
After consulting with First Nations, the Proponent has included the removal of the Lower Lake Dam in the proposed FHCP. Based on the information provided to date (January 2019), DFO understands that the amended FHCP includes the following components:
The effectiveness monitoring of the FHCP is a requirement for DFO’s Fisheries Act authorization process. The Proponent is required to provide a design study describing the monitoring measures that will be put in place to assess the effectiveness of the proposed FHCP in terms of fish passage and usage of the restored habitat by fish. The Proponent has committed to submit the outstanding information in an amended FHCP in the first quarter of 2019.
|31||A community member of the Woodstock First Nation asked why fish stocking was not considered as a compensation action.||
Per section 2.3 of the Fisheries Productivity Investment Policy, the stocking of fish option should only be used when the other groups of offsetting measures are not available, and only under specific circumstances, such as where the site-specific issue are well understood, the limitations to fisheries productivity are known, and fisheries management plans contain clear objectives for the fishery. The rationale should also provide scientifically defensible evidence of the successful application of the measure under similar conditions (e.g., similar aquatic ecosystems).
During a consultation session, the Proponent indicated that fish stocking with hatchery-raised fish had not been considered. However, on September 5, 2018, the Proponent provided a progress report memo to DFO with a plan to reintroduce alewife into the Upper Nashwaak Lake by relocating wild fish from within the Saint John River watershed.
On November 12, 2018, the Proponent provided the additional information and rationale as to why alewife reintroduction in the upper reaches of the Nashwaak watershed should be considered. The Proponent has since added a conservation-focused reintroduction plan to its proposed FHCP. The Proponent will submit an amended FHCP in the first quarter of 2019.
|32||Since the open pit and general mine operations will also impact two other streams, Sisson Brook and McBean Brook and potentially the whole Nashwaak watershed, the habitat lost should also be taken into account in the FHCP.||The Application for Fisheries Act Authorization and the FHCP take into account the direct effects on Sisson Brook and McBean Brook, as well as the indirect effects caused by flow reductions on Lower Napadogan Brook and the residual segment off Sisson Brook and Tributary A. The plan was developed to satisfy the requirements of ss. 35(2) of the Fisheries Act and the requirements of the MDMER.|
|33||An organization representing First Nations inquired about what will happen to fish when the water body is destroyed and wondered if the fish would be moved to another location. They also asked whether interactions between species was considered.||During the early stages of the construction of the TSF and within the future area of the open pit, fish residing in Bird Brook, Sisson Brook, McBean Brook and Tributary A of West Branch Napadogan Brook will be relocated, to the extent possible, to minimize the potential for direct mortality to occur from construction activities. All reasonable efforts will be made to relocate fish within the affected watercourses to nearby watercourses within the Napadogan or adjacent watersheds that contain suitable habitat, as appropriate. Consultation with DFO and the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources (NBDNR) will be required to determine suitable release strategies and locations for captured fish.|
|34||Organization representing First Nations and citizens commented that the cost of the FHCP was very low in comparison to the benefits the mine would generate.||
DFO assesses the merit of proposed Offsetting Plans from a biological perspective. Therefore, the cost of undertaking any given Offsetting Plan is not considered as part of the analysis.
The Proponent will be required to adjust and resubmit a letter of credit that covers the cost of the updated FHCP and the associated monitoring costs. In December 2018, the Proponent provided cost estimates for the amended FHCP, which is estimated at $954,000.
|35||Members of the public and Organization representing First Nations asked how long the FHCP will last. They also inquired about who and how the success and implementation will be monitored.||
Per the fourth principle of the Fisheries Productivity Investment Policy, an offsetting plan should strive to generate self-sustaining benefits to fisheries productivity. The offset benefits to the fisheries should last at least as long as the impacts from the development project. In this case, the FHCP benefit should be permanent.
The Proponent is responsible for implementing the FHCP and monitoring its effectiveness, as well as for reporting on implementation and the results of monitoring. DFO will also ensure that the FHCP and the monitoring plan are implemented. The Proponent is required by both the MDMER and as part of the authorization issued under the FA, to monitor the effectiveness of the FHCP.
The Proponent is required to provide a design study describing the monitoring measures that will be put in place to assess the effectiveness of the proposed FHCP. The Proponent has committed to submitting this information in an amended FHCP in the first quarter of 2019.
|36||An organization representing First Nations was concerned that the offsetting plan only describes that Alewife will benefit the most but fails to describe quantitatively how (or if) other important fish species will benefit from the plan. Most notably, considering the confirmed presence of juvenile Atlantic Salmon within the proposed overprinted habitat, the Proponent must describe how (or if) juvenile salmon may benefit from the offsetting plan.||
The potential impacts to salmon spawning and juvenile habitat are limited to flow reductions because of holding water in the Tailings Storage Facility. The benefits of restoring alewife to the entire receiving ecosystem are expected to directly affect the freshwater productivity of Atlantic salmon within parts of the Nashwaak River watershed by increasing food resources.
The Proponent is required to include additional information on how the proposed FHCP will offset the loss of productivity in its amended FHCP. This information is required by DFO as part of its Fisheries Act authorization process. The Proponent has committed to submit the outstanding information in an amended FHCP in the first quarter of 2019.
|37||Organization representing First Nations commented that since the Nashwaak lake already has a diverse fish community, which includes both resident and stocked brook trout, there are no real benefits for brook trout. It is recommended that all references to benefits to brook trout in the proposed offsetting plan be removed. This lack of benefits for brook trout must also be reflected in the quantitative assessment of habitat units being offset.||
Through communication with a Provincial Biologist, the Proponent understands that the current fish species assemblage of Nashwaak Lake consists of nine species including brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). The main stem of the Nashwaak River has been reported to provide habitat for 26 species including Atlantic salmon and brook trout. Not all of the 26 species identified as inhabitants of the Nashwaak River are likely to benefit, via habitat access, from the removal of the fish passage barrier at the confluence of the Nashwaak River and Nashwaak Lake. At least two species (i.e., alewife and brook trout) are likely to benefit from the removal of this fish passage barrier. With respect to brook trout, increased upstream habitat access to Nashwaak Lake provides access to overwintering habitat, which may enhance the survival of the riverine population. Furthermore, removal of the barrier increases the potential genetic exchange between lake and river populations.
The FHCP is anticipated to eventually enhance fisheries productivity in a large portion of the Nashwaak river watershed ecosystem; including the productivity of brook trout and other species that are anticipated to inhabit Nashwaak Lake following removal of the barrier to fish passage.
|38||It is critical that Atlantic salmon spawning and redd count surveys be completed prior to construction in order to identify critical habitat. This should include funding for an IKS to gather and bring to bear indigenous knowledge about Atlantic salmon (and other VECs), in regulatory decisions being contemplated by the Crown about the Project.||
The Proponent intends to survey Napadogan Brook to identify areas that are suitable for salmon spawning and juvenile rearing prior to construction. The survey will be based on habitat information and the presence of young-of-the-year salmon. Redd count surveys will not be conducted because the goal is not to provide a breeding population estimate and the accuracy of redd count surveys is highly dependent on weather conditions, which can be unpredictable.
The Proponent has indicated that they are committed to working with First Nations at all stages of the Project.
a. Hall, C. J., Jordaan, A., and M. G. Frisk. 2011. The historic influence of dams on diadromous fish habitat with a focus on river herring and hydrologic longitudinal connectivity. Landscape Ecology 26:95–107.
b. Bolster W.J . 2008. Putting the ocean in Atlantic history: Maritime communities and marine ecology in the northwest Atlantic, 1500–1800. The American Historical Review 113: 19–47.
c. Best, B.L., Gibson, A.J., O’Malley, A.J., and J. Zydlewski. 2018. Does what goes up also come down? Using a recruitment model to balance alewife nutrient import and export. Marine and Coastal Fisheries. 10(2): 236-254.
d. Samways, K.M., Soto, D.X., and R.A. Cunjak. 2018. Aquatic food-web dynamics following incorporation of nutrients derived from Atlantic anadromous fishes. Journal of Fish Biology. 92(2): 399-419.
e. Samways, K.M., Quinones-Rivera, Z.J., Leavitt, P.R., and R.A. Cunjak. 2015. Spatiotemporal responses of algal, fungal, and bacterial biofilm communities in Atlantic rivers receiving marine-derived nutrient inputs. Freshwater Science. 34(3): 881-896.
f. Walters, A.W., Barnes, R.T., and D.M. Post. 2009. Anadromous alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus) contribute marine-derived nutrients to coastal stream food webs. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 66: 439–448.
g. Best, B.L., Gibson, A.J., O’Malley, A.J., and J. Zydlewski. 2018. Does what goes up also come down? Using a recruitment model to balance alewife nutrient import and export. Marine and Coastal Fisheries. 10(2): 236-254.
|Reference Number||Comments||Department of the Environment responses, informed by input from the Proponent|
|39||Citizens and ENGOs have asked how a conclusion could be rendered on the impact of the project on the environment without a comprehensive assessment being truly done.||
The provincial EIA was completed and approved in 2015, with the approval being subject to 40 conditions. Completed in accordance with New Brunswick’s Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation, the assessment concluded that the mitigating measures identified during the process, along with the conditions outlined in the approval, would mitigate all potentially significant adverse environmental impacts.
A federal Environmental Assessment (EA) was completed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). Having considered the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Report (CEAA 2016) and the implementation of mitigation measures, in June 2017, the Governor in Council determined that the Project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that can be justified in the circumstances.
|40||Several citizens, ENGOs and First Nation groups expressed concern that the Financial Security Plan, which must be submitted after the approval of the provincial Environmental Impact Assessment, was not available to the public at the time of the consultations on the proposed Amendment to the MDMER.||As part of the 40 conditions of the provincial EIA approval, PNB requires the Proponent to develop a Financial Security Plan prior to tailings being deposited into the tailings storage facility (TSF) (condition 16). The PNB is responsible for ensuring that the Proponent meets the provincial conditions.|
|41||Citizens commented that the environmental impact assessment should not be considered final, as it cannot receive its definitive approval from the province until the company has complied with the 40 conditions.||The provincial EIA was completed and approved in 2015, with the approval being subject to 40 conditions. Completed in accordance with New Brunswick’s Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation, the assessment concluded that the mitigating measures identified during the process, along with the conditions outlined in the approval, would mitigate potentially significant adverse environmental impact. PNB is responsible for issuing the Certificate of Determination (COD) and for ensuring the Proponent meets the 40 provincial conditions.|
|42||A citizen was concerned that the risks to human health from the project have not been taken into account in the environmental assessment.||
A human health and ecological risk assessment was done as part of the provincial EIA (Section 8.9 - Public Health and Safety).
Federally, human health effects were also considered in section 5.8 of the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Project (CEAA 2016). Health Canada and PNB advised CEAA that the proposed mitigation measures and follow-up would adequately address the potential effects on the human health.
Citizens, First Nation organizations and an ENGO were concerned about the impact that wastewater could have on the endangered Atlantic Salmon, the fauna and flora close to the mining area.
They asked the Proponent to provide information on downstream expected impact of the project on river water quality, on Atlantic Salmon and other fish species in Napadogan Brook and Nashwaak River.
Regarding potential effects flora and fauna from wastewater downstream, all discharged effluent will be treated prior to release into the environment to meet requirements under the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (MDMER) and the Water Quality Approval to operate under New Brunswick’s Clean Water Act, prior to beginning operation. The MDMER require monitoring to ensure that water quality standards are met at all mines in Canada. It is expected that meeting the regulated water quality standards of both the Federal and Provincial governments will protect fish and fish habitat downstream of the Project area.
Under the MDMER, metal and diamond mines must conduct Environmental Effects Monitoring and report to the Department of the Environment.
Metals and inorganics baseline data are provided along with predictive water quality modelling as part of Section 8.4 of the 2015 Stantec Report.
|44||ENGOs and a citizen commented that the chosen method for water treatment was not proven and could even be risky in our climate.||According to the Proponent, the water treatment process proposed for the Project is a standard method used in the mining industry. For example, a plant commissioned in 1998 at the Brenda Mine in BC that has applied this technology for treatment of molybdenum for several decades.|
|45||A First Nation organization commented that no baseline metals and inorganics sampling analysis of waters surrounding the mining project area was done.||
As part of the 40 conditions of the provincial EIA approval, the Proponent must conduct a pre-construction survey to establish baseline conditions (water quality and quantity) for all water supplies within the local assessment area (LAA), including camp lot lease sites and recreational campsites. The baseline results (with clear location maps and water source descriptions) must be submitted to the New Brunswick Department of Environment and Local Government (DELG) for review and approval prior to the commencement of construction and a copy of the individual results given to each landowner and/or lessor.
A baseline surface water quality program has been ongoing since July 2007 and the groundwater quality program was initiated in December 2011. Water quality analytical results were compared to the Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines (CEQG) for the protection of freshwater aquatic life and Health Canada’s (HC) drinking water quality guidelines.
Baseline metals and inorganic sampling data were provided along with predictive water quality modelling as part of Section 8.4 Water Resources of the 2015 Stantec Report.
|46||A First Nation organization asked whether there would be any potential chemicals of concern in the effluent that could affect the fish population or in drinkable water downstream.||
In the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Project (CEAA 2016), the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency states that it is satisfied that the Project is not likely to result in significant effects on water quality, including water sources that may be used for drinking water, given the implementation of proposed mitigation measures.
The Proponent must comply with specific water quality parameters set by the Province of New Brunswick (PNB). These parameters are based on the Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life (Freshwater). The PNB also requires a water quality management plan as part of the Approval to Operate.
Condition 8 of the provincial EIA approval requires the development of a Water Monitoring and Management Plan, including monitoring for ground water, surface water and tailings. The Plan will also be a condition of the Approval to Operate issued under New Brunswick’s Water Quality Regulation.
|47||An ENGO inquired about the standard the Proponent will be required to meet in terms of water treatment and water quality.||
The Project will be subject to the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (MDMER). Schedule 4 of the MDMER prescribes the maximum authorized limits for deleterious substances in mine effluent. The MDMER also specify the allowable acidity or alkalinity (pH range) of mine effluent and require that mine effluent not be acutely lethal to fish. The MDMER further require that mine owners or operators sample and monitor effluents to ensure compliance with the authorized limits and to determine any impact on fish, fish habitat and fishery resources.
Water treatment and water quality were considered during the provincial EIA and federal EA. A summary of the issues raised related to water quality and water treatment can be found in Appendix H of the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Project (CEAA 2016) (CSR). The CSR states that CEAA is satisfied that Project is not likely to result in significant effects on water quality.
The Project will be subject to conditions imposed by the PNB related to water quality, including the following conditions:
|48||Organizations representing First Nations asked whether the cumulative effects of all activities in the area of the watershed (mining project, logging) were considered when making the environmental assessment.||
An assessment of cumulative environmental effects was undertaken for environmental components, for example air quality, water quality, health and terrestrial. Additional information can be found in Section 8 of the 2015 Stantec Report.
Cumulative environmental effects were also considered during the federal EA process. Appendix H of the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Report (CEAA 2016) states that CEAA concludes that the effects of the Project on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Maliseet First Nations, in combination with the cumulative environmental effects of other projects and activities, are likely to be significant. In June 2017, the Governor in Council decided, after taking into consideration the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Report (CEAA 2016) and taking into account the implementation of appropriate mitigation measures, that the Project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that can be justified in the circumstances.
|49||An organization representing First Nations raised concerns about their exclusion from the archaeological studies.||
Archaeological programs were undertaken on the Project site in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. By 2014, the Proponent’s engagement with First Nations on this program evolved to the development of a Heritage Mitigation Plan reviewed and approved by First Nations and PNB. The Proponent funded the program.
The 2015 Archaeological Fields Assessment program was launched and approved by the PNB. This ongoing archaeological assessment resumed on September 8, 2015 and was concluded on November 20, 2015. An additional 5,048 shovel test pits were completed during this period. The program included the participation of over 80 individuals from First Nations groups. The conclusions of the 2015 Archeological Filed Assessment report were as follows:
CEAA, based on expert advice, is satisfied that sufficient baseline information exists to draw conclusions about the potential significance of effects on heritage resources (refer to section 5.11.3 of the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Project (CEAA 2016).
Taking into account the implementation of applicable mitigation, CEAA was of the view that the Project is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects on heritage.
|50||An organization representing First Nations asked whether impacts on First Nations communities were considered in the EA.||Conclusions on the impact of the Project on First Nations can be viewed in the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Project (CEAA 2016). The decision of the responsible authorities is available on the Agency website.|
|51||An ENGO was concerned about the amount of untreated tailing seepage from the tailing impoundment area into the Nashwaak watershed. Concerns were also raised on the long-term downstream risk for fish, wildlife and people in the Nashwaak watershed after the mine life. These impacts were not incorporated into the habitat impact assessment.||
Regulations are in place to prevent release of untreated toxic waste in the environment. For example, the Project will be subject to the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (MDMER). The MDMER prescribe the maximum authorized limits for deleterious substances in mine effluent in Schedule 4 (e.g. arsenic, copper, cyanide, lead, nickel, zinc, radium-226 and total suspended solids). The MDMER also specify the allowable acidity or alkalinity (pH range) of mine effluent and require that mine effluent not be acutely lethal to fish. The MDMER further require that mine owners or operators sample and monitor effluents to ensure compliance with the authorized limits and to determine any impact on fish, fish habitat and fishery resources.
Wastewater from the mine will be directed to a water treatment plan where the wastewater will be treated to achieve the standard set out in Schedule 4 of the MDMER. The Proponent will also be required to meet water quality objectives based on the Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life (Freshwater) and develop a water quality monitoring plan.
An ENGO and an organization representing First Nations were concerned about the heavy metals in dust from mine-related activities that may have the potential to be deposited up to 25 km away, possibly beyond, and the impact of that dust on fish and fish habitat. Those impacts should be taken into account in the compensation plan.
Organizations representing First Nations were also concerned about air pollution generated by mining operation and the possible impact on water.
Information on the environmental impact assessment of dust and noise can be found in Section 8.2 of the 2015 Stantec Report.
Air emissions are also considered in section 5.2.1 and Appendix H of the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Report (CEAA 2016). According to the Proponent, dust, noise and other emissions from the Project would be largely limited to the Project site and the immediate area surrounding it, and would be monitored and managed during construction and operation to ensure that environmental effects on land and resources outside the Project footprint are avoided or minimized.
The Proponent committed to ensuring that all atmospheric emissions would be within applicable provincial regulations, standards and guidelines respecting populated areas nearby. However, some exceedances of ambient air quality objectives for total particulate matter (PM) are predicted to occur when vehicles pass during dry conditions or occasionally within approximately 20 meters of the primary crusher (i.e. 0.2 percent of the time).
Conditions of the provincial EIA approval would require the Proponent to: submit baseline air quality studies for PM10, H2S, and NH3; conduct additional preconstruction surveys of baseline contaminant concentrations of country foods used by First Nations; and undertake additional dust deposition modelling on vegetation. It would also require monitoring of air quality, including air contaminant emissions and ambient total PM concentrations. With respect to potential impacts of dust, New Brunswick's conditions of EIA approval would require the Proponent to monitor dust fall near the Project site and develop a Dust Suppression Plan, which would describe effects monitoring, adaptive management considerations, and contingency plans. First Nations would be involved in the development and implementation of follow-up and monitoring plans.
|Reference Number||Comments||Department of the Environment responses, informed by input from the Proponent|
An organization representing First Nations suggested that the dam design criteria should more closely approximate those set for a dam classification of extreme consequence as defined by the Canadian Dam Association (2013), particularly for criteria relating to water management. In BC, a minimum Inflow Design Flood storage capacity is for a 72-hour duration event, not 24-h as selected by the Proponent.
In addition, concerns were raised regarding potential of dam failure due to extreme weather event or improper dam design.
During the provincial EIA process, the Proponent provided an analysis on the likelihood of an embankment failure, the mitigation measures to avoid TSF embankment failure and potential environmental impacts and their significance. Additional information can be found in Appendix G – Loss of containment in Tailing Storage Facility of the 2015 Stantec Report.
In 2017, CEAA required the Proponent to review the Report on Mount Polley Tailings Storage Facility Breach (January 2015) and provide an analysis of the implications for their Project. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) reviewed the Proponent’s analysis of seismicity in the region, including the potential for an earthquake to affect the integrity of project components including the tailings storage facility (TSF). NRCan confirmed that the Proponent’s analysis was acceptable.
The dam design and approval fall under the purview of the PNB and requirements for the tailings dam are part of the 40 conditions associated with the approval of the provincial EIA. The TSF will be designed to account for extreme weather events and any increase in the frequency or intensity of weather events over the life of the Project. The TSF would be constructed to meet the Canadian Dam Association’s Dam Safety Guidelines and with sufficient capacity and freeboard to store the probable maximum precipitation during operations and into post-closure.
ENGOs, organizations representing First Nations, and citizens are concerned that no dam failure modeling was generated in order to identify the potential environmental impact that a catastrophic event could have on fish and fish habitat. Furthermore, it was not clear that the Proponent considered the advice from the Mount Polley Independent Expert Engineering Investigation and Review Panel. An ENGO was also concerned that the chosen option was a centerline dam design, which is a lower cost option compared to a more stable downstream design which would be considered the Best Available Technology (BAT).
An ENGO stated that condition #26 of the “Conditions of EIA Approval” is not fulfilled as set out by the province. ENGOs and the public cannot endorse Government of Canada granting an MDMER amendment in the absence of objective, third-party TSF Failure Modelling, given that a serious TSF failure would result in the irreversible environmental degradation of the entire Nashwaak River.
The Proponent responded to similar questions during the federal EA process. The Proponent indicated (see Appendix H of the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Report (CEAA 2016)) that they conducted an analysis of loss of containment of the TSF by breach of the tailings embankment as a result of an extreme earthquake or flood event outside of the conservative design criteria for the facility.
The Proponent indicated that the TSF will be designed, and will be constructed and operated in consideration of current design standards, to meet conservative factors of safety appropriate to a modern TSF in New Brunswick under rigorous regulation by the New Brunswick Department of Energy and Mines and Department of Environment and Local Government. Under these conditions, a major failure of the TSF embankment has an extremely low likelihood of occurrence (annual probability of failure of between 1-in-1 million to 1-in-10 million).
The dam design and approval falls under the purview of the PNB and the requirements for the tailings dam are part of the 40 conditions associated with the approval of the provincial EIA. In addition, PNB requires further modelling based on the final design of the embankment. This will be done at the appropriate design phase.
Citizens wanted clarification on who will be responsible in case of a failure in the tailings storage facility (or Dam).
Several citizens have commented that if the project is to go ahead, they request that the Proponent be as responsible as possible in its operations and decisions, and that requirement be set high enough to adequately protect the environment.
|Per condition 40 of the provincial EIA approval, in the event of design failure or malfunction during the construction, operation, closure or post-closure phases of the Project that causes environmental contamination, the PNB will require the Proponent to incur all remediation costs associated with any such event, including those not covered by the Financial Security Plan.|
Several citizens and organizations representing First Nations were concerned that even if jobs will be created by the mining operation, this will not counter-balance the loss of a pristine watershed habitat for the people living in the area or using the habitat for recreational purposes.
Organizations representing First Nations have expressed their strong opposition to the mining project and questioned how the government would protect people against the project.
The Project was subject to a provincial EIA and was approved in 2015, subject to 40 conditions. The review concluded that the mitigation measures identified during the process, along with the conditions outlined in the approval, would mitigate all potentially significant adverse environmental impacts.
A federal EA was completed by CEAA. While considering the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Report (CEAA 2016) and the implementation of appropriate mitigation measures, in June 2017, the Governor in Council determined that the Project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that can be justified in the circumstances.
The Project will also be subject to the MDMER, which prescribe the maximum authorized limits for deleterious substances in metal mine effluent. The Regulations also specify the allowable acidity or alkalinity (pH range) of mine effluent and require that mine effluent not be acutely lethal to fish. The MDMER further require that mine owners or operators sample and monitor effluents to ensure compliance with the authorized limits to determine any impact on fish, fish habitat and fishery resources.
The PNB will set specific water quality parameters with which the Proponent must comply. These parameters are based on the Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life (Freshwater). The province also requires a water quality management plan as part of the Approval to Operate.
The Proponent has committed to the implementation of an environmental and social management system that can be found in Appendix D of the 2015 Stantec Report.
In February 2017, the PNB reached agreement with the Maliseet First Nations on the Project, which included a Land and Resource Strategic Planning Table and Sisson Mine accommodation measures.
Organizations representing First Nations asked how many jobs can be guaranteed to First Nations and what will the percentage of the jobs offered to First Nations people in New Brunswick during construction and mine life.
An organization representing First Nations asked if training opportunities will be offered and how will the Proponent ensure that all First Nations people are given the same opportunities.
|During the consultation sessions, the Proponent reiterated their commitment to work with First Nations on potential training and employment opportunities. Many of the positions on the mine site will involve “on the job training” and the Proponent is committed to ensure that First Nations are aware of employment opportunities through the Joint Economic Development Initiative, direct notification to the Band offices and First Nations Human Resources coordinators within each community. The Proponent also remains committed to working with First Nations on supply and contract opportunities.|
|58||An organization representing First Nations asked why the quarry site to the TSF at closure was not considered as an option for waste rock storage.||The Proponent indicated that the rock quarry is required to be available for construction materials for the life of the mine. It would however be available for potential backfilling of PAG waste rock once the mine has completed operation. In order to consider using the rock quarry for such a purpose, a secondary stockpile for the waste rock outside of the TSF would be required. A stand-alone temporary waste rock storage area could have impacts on the environment.|
Organizations representing First Nations commented that they would like to be actively involved in baseline data collection studies (such as Indigenous knowledge).
An organization representing First Nations was concerned that no such studies were performed during the environmental assessment and that the impact of the project on their community was not documented. They requested the appropriate funds to be able to complete an Indigenous knowledge study. Furthermore, this organization stated that they needed to be more involved in screening and consideration of alternatives for the FHCP.
First Nations completed a Traditional Knowledge Study (TKS) in 2013.
In 2014, the Proponent held a meeting with all First Nations to present and discuss a proposed Framework for First Nations participation in the Follow Up and Monitoring Program. The Program is aimed at verifying both the environmental effects predictions made in the EIA Report and the effectiveness of proposed mitigation for all Valued Environmental Components, including those of interest (i.e. baseline) to First Nations.
A meeting of the FNEAWG was held on October 9, 2014 to specifically discuss and review the Offsetting Plan with First Nations. At this meeting, the Proponent requested that First Nations identify other compensation projects of interest to First Nations that could be considered; no alternative or additional proposal was provided.
The provincial EIA approval outlines several conditions that will require the involvement and engagement of First Nations on the Project. The Proponent is committed to respecting the 40 conditions presented by the Province of New Brunswick, which includes baseline data collection studies in cooperation with First Nations. In September 2018, the Proponent sent a letter to the Chiefs of the Maliseet First Nations seeking input on how they would like to be engaged in the implementation of three provincial EIA conditions relating to the engagement of First Nations, specifically conditions 18, 21 and 29i.
|60||Organizations representing First Nations, and citizens inquired about the impact of the mining project and wastewater effluent on the Nashwaak river flow downstream.||
Indirect environmental effects are described in Section 3.2 of the proposed Offsetting Plan. The indirect habitat loss calculations include all habitats where reductions in mean annual flow are greater than 10%, as defined in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Fisheries Productivity Investment Policy. The flow reduction calculations are based on the final project layout, which assumes that all run-off in the mine-affected areas is captured and therefore unavailable downstream. Indirect habitat loss due to flow reduction was included in the determination of habitat area required for offsetting.
The MDMER require effluent monitoring for all mines in Canada. The Project is required to obtain a Water Quality Approval to operate under the New Brunswick Clean Water Act prior to beginning operation.
Baseline metals and inorganic sampling data are provided along with predictive water quality modelling in Section 8.4 of the 2015 Stantec Report.
It is expected that meeting the regulated water quality standards of both the Federal and Provincial governments will be protective of fish and fish habitat downstream of the Project area. In addition, under the MDMER, metal and diamond mines are required to conduct routine Environmental Effects Monitoring.
|61||A citizen asked what the project footprint area is, and how deep the open pit will be.||The area of physical disturbance associated with the Project, including the linear facilities, encompasses approximately 1,253 hectares. The pit from which ore will be mined would be approximately 145 hectares in size (900 meters wide and 1,850 meters long) and 300 to 370 meters deep.|
|62||ENGOs, organizations representing First Nations, and citizens asked what will happen after mining for 27 years and how the site will be left once the mining operation is finished.||The Proponent developed a Conceptual Reclamation and Closure Plan for the Project. Following operations, all facilities, buildings and other infrastructure would be removed, except those required for ongoing care and maintenance (e.g. water management and treatment systems, scaled-back administration office, one or two small buildings for storage, and essential roads, power lines, and on-site power supplies), and the Project site would be reclaimed. During decommissioning, the open pit will be filled with water for safety reasons and to address the potential for acid generation from pit walls. Additionally, condition 29(m) of the EIA approval requires the Proponent to develop a Closure and Post-Closure Monitoring Program in collaboration with the appropriate regulatory authorities, First Nations and stakeholders.|
|63||An organization representing First Nations has requested that the start date for construction be updated, since they are now outdated in the different documents.||
At this stage, it is difficult for the Proponent to state the exact start date of construction since they are currently working on obtaining the applicable permits, approvals or other forms of authorization required, including the authorization to deposit mine waste into fish frequented waters under the MDMER.
The Proponent is required to meet the provincial EIA conditions before any works or operations can commence at the site and a number of the conditions require First Nations engagement with timelines for construction and operation for the Project with specific dates identified.
Since the open pit will be filled with water during post-closure, creating a pit lake that would then be discharged to Sisson Brook if the water quality is sufficient, an organization representing First Nations requests additional information on the Proponent’s plans related to management of this pit lake and the associated effluent discharge.
An organization representing First Nations requests that the Proponent provide additional information on the management and water chemistry of the pit lake during closure and post-closure, including:
As described in the 2015 Stantec Report, the Closure Phase of the Project is expected to start after 28 years and last 11 years. The Post-Closure Phase represents the point at which the open pit lake is full and the discharge of treated water into Sisson Brook will resume.
Post-Closure is expected to begin at year 40. the Proponent provides predictive water quality modelling of the open pit for 60 years Post-Closure and this information was used to predict effects in the 2015 Stantec Report.
When the open pit lake water quality meets the regulated discharge requirements established under the Approval to Operate, pumping and treatment will cease and an engineered channel will be established from the north end of the pit lake to the residual segment of Sisson Brook. The lake level will then be allowed to rise and discharge naturally through that channel. The water quality requirements for discharge from the open pit lake have not been established, as the Approval to Operate has not yet been issued by the PNB.
Citizens and ENGOs have concerns about corporate reputation and solvability of parties that own Sisson Partnership. These stakeholders asked:
The Project has been designed to have an operating cost that will allow it to operate despite price fluctuations. The Project is required to provide bonding for reclamation as set out in provincial and federal legislation to fund project closure at the end of the life of the mine or shut down (if earlier).
Metal and diamond mining effluent regulations
|Reference Number||Comments||Department of the Environment responses|
|66||A First Nation organization asked if the species (fish and other) present in the water bodies destroyed would also be listed on Schedule 2 of the MDMER.||Fish species are not listed in Schedule 2 of the MDMER. The proposed Amendments to the MDMER would list two waterbodies frequented by fish in Schedule 2 designating them as tailings impoundment areas. The MDMER require the Proponent to develop a FHCP to offset the loss of fish habitat in the waterbodies as a result of the deposit of mine waste. Please see the Fisheries Productivity Investment Policy: A Proponent’s Guide to Offsetting for details on the requirement of the FHCP.|
|67||A First Nation organization would like the government to inform them of the conclusion with respect to Schedule 2 listing before the decision is made in accordance with Article 32 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).||
As part of the consultation process, the proposed Amendments are published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a 30-day public comment period. Comments received during this period will inform the development of the final regulatory Amendments.
ECCC and DFO will continue to engage First Nations following the pre-publication in the Canada Gazette, Part I.
|68||An ENGO asked why only two brooks are considered under the MDMER while the project will affect waterbodies, namely, Bird Brook and an unnamed tributary to the West Branch Napadogan Brook, Lower Napadogan Brook Sisson Brook and McBean Brook, and therefore there should be compensations for all five waterbodies.||
The construction and operation of the project components will affect five waterbodies: Bird Brook, an unnamed tributary to Napadogan Brook, Sisson Brook, McBean Brook, and Lower Napadogan Brook.
Three waterbodies would be subject to Section 35(2) of the Fisheries Act to authorize for works or undertakings that would result in serious harm to fish. The authorization under subsection 35(2) of the Fisheries Act also requires the Proponent to offset the loss to fish habitat. The FHCP submitted by the Proponent takes into account the direct and indirect effect on all five waterbodies.
|Reference Number||Comments||Department of the Environment responses|
There was an unacceptable lack of sensitivity to the needs of the public, the communities and First Nations throughout the consultation process linked to this project, which is leading to the Proponent not having a social license to operate.
Concerns raised during the environmental assessment process were not taken into consideration.
A First Nation organization commented that they were treated differently than other First Nations during EIA (approved in 2015) and EA (approved in 2017).
A First Nation indicated that they were not consulted by either the Province of New Brunswick or the Proponent on the Project and the environmental assessment.
A summary of the consultation activities undertaken by the Proponent with First Nations and the public during the provincial environmental impact assessment can be found in section 4.3 Consultation and Engagement of the Sisson Project – Final Environmental Impact Assessment Report – February 2015, Volume 1.
A Summary of Public and First Nation Participation in the environmental impact assessment was also published by the government of New Brunswick. Additionally, the province of New Brunswick issued 40 Conditions of Environmental Impact Assessment Approval for the Sisson Mine Project, which includes requirements for the Proponent to engage First Nations on various elements of the project.
A summary of consultation activities undertaken by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency with First Nations and the public during the federal environmental assessment can be found in sections 7 and 8 of the Comprehensive Study Report: Sisson Report (CEAA 2016).
In the context of the proposed Amendments to Schedule 2 of the MDMER, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans held nine consultations with First Nations and the public on the proposed Amendments in 2018. As a result of those consultations, the Proponent has amended the FHCP. Furthermore, a 30-day comment period follows the pre-publication in the Canada Gazette, part I.
|70||There was a lack of transparency throughout the consultation process from the Proponent, and that the Government of New Brunswick was not present during the MDMER public consultations.||
In 2018, ECCC and DFO held consultation sessions to discuss possible federal authorizations to deposit mine waste in fish frequented waters (proposed Amendments to Schedule 2 the MDMER), and the authorization under subsection 35(2) of the Fisheries Act.
Officials from the province of New Brunswick participated as an observer in the consultation session held in Stanley on March 15, 2018, in the teleconference held on April 3, 2018, and in community meetings held with First Nations in October 2018.
Concern was expressed that the requirement of ongoing engagement with First Nations was not done, which means they are unable to give their consent to this project.
Furthermore, concern was raised that First Nations communities were not given the opportunity to provide their free, prior, and informed consent for the project, as per the UNDRIP.
Environment and Climate Change Canada values the importance of engaging meaningfully with First Nations in the regulatory development process.
In the context of the proposed Amendments to Schedule 2 of the MDMER, a consultation plan was developed in 2017 in collaboration with First Nations on how to conduct engagement on the proposed Amendments. The consultation plan’s objectives were designed to:
Consultation sessions on the proposed Amendments took place in March, May, and October 2018. In total, nine consultation activities took place, out of which seven were solely with First Nations of New Brunswick. Comments have informed the regulatory process associated with the proposed Amendments.
The pre-publication of the proposed Amendments in the Canada Gazette, Part I, represents another opportunity to comment on the proposed Amendments. ECCC and DFO will continue to engage with First Nations following the pre-publication. ECCC invites Indigenous groups and the public to provide comments on the proposed Amendments and associated documents by March 18, 2019.
|72||First Nation organizations asked why ECCC was conducting consultations since the Sisson project is already accepted by the province of New Brunswick (EIA 2015) and by the federal government under CEAA (EA 2017).||An authorization is required to use waters frequented by fish for the disposal of mine waste. The authority is given by listing those waters in Schedule 2 of the MDMER, designating them as tailings impoundment areas. As part of any regulatory process, ECCC conducts consultation with the public and with Indigenous groups. More specifically, ECCC consults on the AA and the proposed offsetting plan (FHCP) to compensate for the habitat loss caused by the TIA.|
The Proponent and the Crown must continue to engage in meaningful consultation by involving First Nation communities in future planning, decision-making, licensing, and monitoring of developments including habitat offsetting and environmental monitoring.
Sufficient training and capacity funding to participate must be provided.
ECCC and DFO officials will continue to engage First Nation communities throughout the MDMER regulatory process. First Nation communities and the public will have the opportunity to provide comments during the 30-day consultation period following pre-publication of the proposed Amendments in the Canada Gazette, Part I. NRCan will also engage with First Nations on the explosives permits when the permit request is received.
Some of the conditions issued by the province on the Project also require the Proponent to engage First Nations.
Additionally, to allow for meaningful participation in the regulatory phase, the federal government has allocated funds to Indigenous groups for their participation in relation to the proposed Amendments.
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