Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut January 24, 2014 - 8:14 am

Sabina submits draft environmental assessment for Back River project

NIRB to weigh benefits, risks, of proposed Kitikmeot gold mine

Sabina Gold and Silver Corporation's Back River gold mine project got a tiny step closer to fruition Jan. 23 with the submission of their comprehensive Draft Environmental Impact Assessment, all 12 volumes of which can be read and downloaded from the NIRB website. (MAP FROM SABINA DRAFT EIS)
Sabina Gold and Silver Corporation's Back River gold mine project got a tiny step closer to fruition Jan. 23 with the submission of their comprehensive Draft Environmental Impact Assessment, all 12 volumes of which can be read and downloaded from the NIRB website. (MAP FROM SABINA DRAFT EIS)

A draft environmental impact statement on Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.’s Back River project — a culmination of five years of scientific studies and Inuit traditional knowledge compiled by the company — is now in the hands of the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

If it becomes operational, the Kitikmeot mine, about 400 km south of Cambridge Bay, is expected to process 5,000 tonnes of material per day and produce about 300,000 ounces of gold per year for up to 10 years.

Rob Pease, Sabina’s president and CEO, called the draft EIS “a major milestone” in the permitting process, saying in a news release that it demonstrates, “how the project could bring responsible, sustainable development to the region, including training, jobs, creation of business opportunities as well as associated royalty payments.”

The submission’s table of contents alone is 127 pages long and outlines 12 volumes of material, in three languages, covering such topics as human, marine and terrestrial environments.

The EIS also covers how the company engaged communities in consultation, how it plans to manage and mitigate the environmental impact of the Back River mine and includes a Type A Water License application.

In Volume 8 on Human Environment, for instance, the company admits jobs and money have the potential to affect the health and community well-being (CWB) both positively and negatively, due to changes in individual family spending.

“Should local residents that obtain employment with the Project choose to spend their increased incomes unproductively (e.g., on gambling, drugs and alcohol) and engage in negative social behaviours, this will have a negative effect on CWB,” it says.

“However, income used to improve standards of living (e.g., improvements to housing, food security) coupled with the other numerous positive effects associated with Project employment have the potential to result in substantial increases to CWB.”

The report concludes “changes to family and household structure are expected to result in a negative residual effect,” but that the magnitude of this effect “is considered low,” because the number of families affected will be low and that impact would be reversible.

The company also looked at the potential impact on the land, the animals and the water.

Volume 4 explains the impact on air quality from mining emissions, saying they could contribute to air contaminants, dust and acid deposition.

Those emissions would come from stack emissions, vehicle exhaust, aircraft exhaust and dust from the roads.

Sabina concludes from modelling, for example, that concentrations of sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide would be below the standards and that nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and acid deposition would exceed the standard but would be contained within the project area.

In Volume 10, the company outlines how it plans to implement environmental monitoring and management measures over the life of the project including who’s job it is to do what in the case of an emergency including natural disasters, accidents and malfunctions.

“Shipping presents further risk potential,” it says. “Ship damage through collision with other vessels or grounding may result in harm to marine life and the coastal environment through possible diesel spills along the shipping route.”

The company says it will have spill response equipment on hand including “heavy equipment and aircraft.”

The Bathurst Inlet shipping area or “marine laydown area” would be used for annual sealifts during open water season and would have a fuel storage tank farm to receive tanker shipments of fuel to be delivered to the mines over winter road.

In a letter to the NIRB in July 2013, Sabina says it prefers this simpler marine docking area to the Bathurst Inlet port and road (BIPAR or BIPR).

The Back River proposal includes six open-pit mining areas within the Goose and George properties with one underground mine at Goose.

All the ore would be processed at the Goose property where gold bars would be poured and then flown out by air. The tailings would be stored next to the Goose processing plant.

According to the company’s fact sheet, Sabina would process the “mill feed” with “standard gravity separation and cyanide leaching circuit.”

Construction employment would result in up to 1,200 person years over a two-year period. Operations employment would consist of 4,442 person years for 10 years.

The project would include all weather roads within the two properties, a winter road between the two properties, a winter road linking the properties to the marine laydown area at Bathurst Inlet and a short-term winter road to the Tibbett-Contwoyto winter road.

Nunavut’s only operational mine right now is Agnico-Eagle’s Meadowbank gold mine near Baker Lake. It is expected to produce gold until 2018.

As for Agnico-Eagle’s proposed Meliadine gold mine near Rankin Inlet, the company has received directions from the NIRB on preparation of its final EIS, which will likely be submitted in April 2014 and possibly go to public hearings in August 2014. The company’s board is expected to make a decision by the end of 2014 on whether to build and start production at the mine.

You can read through Sabina’s submission at the NIRB website here.

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