senior staff writer
A First Nation in Northern Ontario is opposing a proposal by Premier Gold for the construction of an open pit mine near Geraldton, as the company moves through the federal environmental assessment process.
“My First Nation is generally supportive of sustainable mining development,” said Aroland First Nation Chief Sonny Gagnon in a statement. “Premier Gold wants to destroy Begooch Zaagaigan, a lake that supports our Aboriginal fishery. They just put a number on this lake — A-322 — and tell us they’re going to fill it in with mine waste.”
Premier Gold is proposing the construction of a new open pit gold mine, processing plant and ancillary facilities, which are known as the Hardrock project. It would be located in Northern Ontario about 275 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.
The company is currently involved in the environmental assessment and permitting process in support of the project, which began with a submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) on April 28, 2014.
As part of this process, Premier secured a range of consultants necessary for completion of a feasibility study expected in the first half of 2015.
These consultants include AMEC Inc. (Tailings Dam Design, Water Management Structures, Deposition Plan), Stantec Consulting Ltd. (Federal and Provincial Environmental Assessments Permitting, Closure Plan), Golder Associates Ltd. (Pit Slope Stability & Interaction of Underground Openings) and lead consultant G Mining Services Inc. (Mining, Engineering Management & Study Coordination).
The project description produced by Stantec for the CEAA in April said construction of the project is expected to occur in 2016/2017 and will take about two years. It involves site preparation, physical construction, equipment installation and commissioning.
The construction of the tailings management facility would result in the complete infilling of Lake A-322 and the associated river draining the lake.
Gagnon is upset, because Premier Gold was not required to submit an environmental assessment under Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act. This is usually required for big mining projects in the province.
“This is one of the worst project proposals I’ve ever seen. They’re going to seriously impact our lands and resources,” he said. “Such a large and destructive project should receive the maximum examination possible — but instead, very little is being done under provincial or federal environment assessment laws. And virtually nothing has been done to consult with and accommodate the many serious concerns of Aroland First Nation.”
As a result, Aroland First Nation is demanding that Ontario’s Minister of the Environment designate the proposal for a full Individual Environmental Assessment.
In addition, Aroland First Nation is also demanding that the federal Minister of the Environment subject the project to a Panel Study Environmental Assessment, and use a regional approach that includes many other impacted First Nations and their Aboriginal fisheries within the Kenogami and Albany River watersheds.
The mine will have a main pit and several satellite pits. The mill will be built in two stages. Phase 1 will be capable of processing up to 10,000 tonnes per day (tpd) of ore.
Phase 2 which involves the expansion of the mill will bring the plant capacity to 18,000 tpd.
Three separate ore pads will be located east of the mill and are capable of storing up to one million tonnes of mineralized material.
A truck dump and primary crusher will be located east of the mill and adjacent to the open pit road. The dump will be capable of handling up to 250 tonne trucks. The primary crusher will feed the mill storage area, located north of the mill.
Permanent facilities are expected to include parking areas and a security building, mine dry and office building with assay lab, repair shop and warehouse building.
A small temporary mining camp, for about 300 workers, will be located near the main access road to the Project. Portable trailers will be installed to accommodate the construction and development personnel.
The estimated life of mine for the project will be 15 years, during which 13 years will be necessary to mine the pit. During the last two years, mining will have completely ceased and the mineralized material stockpile will be the only supply for the mill.