Government of Canada Approves the Marathon Palladium Project
November 30, 2022 — Ottawa — Impact Assessment Agency of Canada
The Government of Canada is committed to developing Canada's critical mineral resources and creating good middle-class jobs, while ensuring the protection of the environment.
Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, announced the Government of Canada's decision to approve the Marathon Palladium Project following an environmental assessment conducted by an independent Joint Review Panel (JRP).
The Marathon Palladium Project, a proposed palladium mine located 10 kilometres from Marathon, Ontario, and along the shores of the Biigtig Zibi (Pic River) nine kilometres north of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg's reserve, will strengthen Canada's position as a global leader in the responsible and sustainable production of critical minerals, consistent with the Government of Canada's Critical Minerals Strategy. Platinum group metals (including palladium, platinum and rhodium) are essential metals in the manufacturing of automotive catalytic convertors, which reduce harmful vehicle emissions. Copper, which would also be produced by the project, is a critical mineral for electric vehicles and associated charging infrastructure, and for the growth of renewable energy infrastructure.
The project represents significant economic opportunities for Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and will help improve the economic prosperity of the region. It is expected to create between 430 and 550 full-time jobs for the local workforce during the construction phase and 430 jobs during its operation, according to the proponent. The proponent has committed to hiring 25 percent of the project workforce (about 100 workers) from within Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and to exclusive contracting opportunities with Biigtigong Nishnaabeg owned and operated companies.
The Decision Statement issued by the Minister sets out 269 legally-binding conditions to protect the environment, including mitigation measures and follow-up program requirements. Generation PGM Inc. (the proponent) must comply with these conditions throughout the life of the project. The conditions include measures to address adverse effects of the project on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Indigenous peoples, physical and cultural heritage and the health and socio-economic conditions of Indigenous peoples, as well as fish and fish habitat, migratory birds and species at risk, such as woodland caribou.
Numerous conditions include clear requirements to consult Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, including some that reference the need to "seek consensus". This includes, for example, plans to divert the water discharge away from the Biigtig Zibi (Pic River), if technically and economically feasible, which is a culturally significant waterway for local Indigenous peoples. The Decision Statement also requires the proponent to develop and implement a reclamation plan for restoring the project footprint once operations have ended and the mine has been decommissioned.
A total of seven Indigenous groups actively participated in the environmental assessment process, including the public hearing, and informed the JRP Report. Crown Consultations with these groups resulted in a number of accommodation measures to address potential impacts to established or asserted rights, as recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of The Constitution Act, 1982. The Government of Canada is committed to working with Indigenous groups in a manner that advances reconciliation, respects the rights and cultures of Indigenous peoples, and ensures the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in assessments. The Government of Canada appreciates the strong and constructive relationship it has built with Indigenous communities throughout the assessment process, in particular, with Biigtigong Nishnaabeg.
The proponent can now proceed with obtaining any additional authorizations and permits from federal departments. This includes an approval from Fisheries and Oceans Canada under the Fisheries Act, from Natural Resources Canada under the Explosives Act, and Environment and Climate Change Canada under the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations.
"The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the environment while growing a strong, sustainable economy. The minerals mined through this project, mainly palladium and copper, will play an important role in Canada's transition to a low-carbon economy. Approving this project will also result in important benefits for members of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, who have provided their support and view the project and the review process as an opportunity to advance reconciliation. The government will continue to ensure projects in Canada are done right."
– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
"Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and the Crown worked to build a collaborative relationship throughout the environmental assessment for the project. The project is on the Exclusive Aboriginal title territory of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and since the community is the most highly impacted by the proposed project, the Crown needed to provide Biigtigong Nishnaabeg with supports and resources that would accommodate for impacts and enable the community to benefit from the project. The Crown recognized and respected Biigtigong Nishnaabeg's requirement for a consensus-based process, and we believe we have set a new precedent for how the government can and should work with First Nations on a Nation-to-Nation basis in decision-making."
– Chief Duncan Michano, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg
"This is an important decision for Canada. The Marathon Palladium Project will produce copper and platinum group metals, which are considered critical in enabling Canada's transition to a cleaner economy. The project will also ensure that Biigtigong Nishnaabeg shares in the economic benefits from development on their territory for generations to come. The government is committed to making Canada the global supplier of choice for sustainably and responsibly sourced critical minerals, from exploration and extraction, to manufacturing and recycling, while also fostering mutually beneficial relationships between industry and Indigenous Peoples. Supporting responsible and sustainable critical mineral development will be a focus of the Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy that will be released by the end of this year."
– The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources
"The approval of the Marathon Palladium mine is a huge step forward for the economy of our region. Marathon and the First Nations rights holders worked hard to ensure this project could build the economy of northern Ontario and protect our environment. Congratulations especially to Chief Duncan Michano, the citizens of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, Mayor Dumas and Marathon residents. Your work is an example of the power of collaboration."
– The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario
Generation PGM Inc.'s Marathon Palladium Project would include three open-pits, an ore processing plant, tailings and mine rock storage facilities, site access roads and other associated activities. The rate of production would be approximately 25,000 tonnes of ore per day with a proposed operating mine life of about 13 years.
Biigtigong Nishnaabeg indicated its support for the project through a community ratification process held on November 12, 2022. In this vote, a majority of community members supported the project, the Community Benefit Agreement that has been negotiated with the proponent, as well as the Crown's accommodation package.
Throughout the environmental assessment, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada actively engaged with seven Indigenous groups who could potentially be impacted by the project. Over $1.2 million of funding was allocated to support their participation in the various steps of the environmental assessment process.
The project was assessed by a Joint Review Panel established with the Government of Ontario. The Panel submitted its Report to the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Ontario's provincial Minister of Environment, Conservation, and Parks in August 2022.
Experts from the Government of Ontario as well as many federal departments participated in the process by providing robust scientific advice and technical expertise throughout the project's review.
The legally-binding conditions listed in the Minister's Decision Statement will be enforced by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada before and during construction and throughout all stages of the project. Failure by Generation PGM Inc. to comply with these conditions is a violation of federal law. Any proposed changes to the project will need to be considered by the Minister through an amendment process to determine if they can proceed.
- Minister's Environmental Assessment Decision Statement (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada)
- Crown Consultation and Accommodations Report – Executive Summary (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada)
- Government Response to the Joint Review Panel's Recommendations
- Marathon Palladium Project (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada)
- Joint Review Panel Report (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada)
- Basics of Environmental Assessment (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada)
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Impact Assessment Agency of Canada
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