By Chris Marchand
As Treasury Metals advances towards making a decision on whether to develop a gold mine at its properties near Wabigoon, a citizen stakeholders group is starting to pose concerns about the potential environmental affects of an operating gold mine.
A group titled ‘Goliath Mine Stakeholders’ emerged July 8 on the social media website Facebook and has since gathered a few dozen followers while hosting published materials and discussions on the mine project.
The group’s founder, Chloe Giles, says stakeholders are discussing everything from noise and dust pollution to more prevalent concerns over the affects of the potential mine’s wastewater on the fishery and water quality of Wabigoon Lake.
Treasury Metals’ project description lists Blackwater Creek, as the main drainage basin for the majority of the mine site. The creek eventually drains into Wabigoon Lake at Kelpyn Bay.
“Anyone in the area who drinks water and cares about their health and environment have cause for concern,” said Giles. “We are skeptical about the economical benefit of a short mine life of 10-12 years when we consider the potential damage we will be left with when it closes.”
Treasury Metals Goliath Project Vice President, Norm Bush says that mines do operate in a robust regulatory environments and that any water discharged into the environment from the mine site must meet standards set by the Ministry of Environment.
Tailings left over from the gold extraction process contain chemicals like cyanide and arsenic and pose the perhaps the biggest threat to water quality.
“The most common method is to put those tailings into a tailings storage facility,” said Bush. “You pump the tailings in a thick slurry into what is basically a large containment area, the water decants out to the surface. The water is extracted from the pond and sometimes treated. Once that water meets the appropriate regulatory requirements it’s then discharged somewhere out into the environment.” said Bush.
The group has been invited to meet with Treasury Metals in early August, and Giles says she looks forward to a chance to ask some questions face-to-face.
“Treasury Metals is a publicly traded company, meaning their number-one duty is to their shareholders, the number-one goal being profit. Their responsibility is not foremost to our community so we must be critical of the information we receive and do our own research into the costs of open pit mining.”
Bush says this new and heightened period of public interest and engagement is indicative of the project’s advanced stage of progress.
“As a project goes from something conceptual to something that might happen I think it’s natural that people’s level of interest increases,” said Bush who adds there should be a ramping up of public discussion around the project this fall as Treasury Metals files its Environmental Impact Statement to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) in late August, or early September.
“Once that’s submitted to the government, then they start reviewing the project from a regulatory perspective and begin making their assessments,” said Bush. “The government organize a number of consultation meetings with the public and First Nations to listen to any concerns and answer any questions the public may have.”
Giles, however, says she has little faith in the ability of Canada’s regulatory framework to act in the best interests of citizens.
“Unfortunately, the system is no longer protecting us and the game is rigged in favour of economic growth at any cost,” said Giles citing 2012 cuts to CEAA coupled with changes to the federal Fisheries Act that she says makes the process ‘untrustworthy’.
Satisfied with the many years of regulatory wrangling required to get a project approved, Bush points to the Goliath projects’ potential to add some much needed economic stability to Dryden.
“The forest products industry is really one that is in transition,” said Bush. “Dryden is very fortunate to still have a relatively modern 1,000 ton per day pulp mill, unlike Kenora, Fort Frances, Smooth Rock Falls and Red Rock to name a few towns that have closed their mills permanently. We’ve been talking about diversifying our economy in a serious way for over 10 years that I know of. Dryden is one of the few fortunate communities to actually have a reasonable chance of transitioning from forestry to mining and maintaining the health and vibrancy of the town.”