Goliath neighbours asking mine proponents tough questions
By Chris Marchand
Residents living in close proximity to Treasury Metals’ proposed Goliath Gold Project gave federal regulators and the mine proponents an earful at a public meeting in Wabigoon, May 6.
Hosted and facilitated by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), with technical information provided by mine designers, the information session at the Wabigoon Hall was followed by another meeting the following night at Dryden’s Best Western Hotel and Conference Centre.
Running well over four hours in length, Thunder Lake and Wabigoon area residents probed CEAA and Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change representatives on the rigours of their assessment and permitting processes and grilled Treasury Metals’ Director of Projects Mark Wheeler on specifics about the project and how it may affect the quality of life for residents living nearby the project site.
Now in the environmental assessment stage, Treasury Metals proposes an open pit and underground gold mine with an ore production capacity of 2,700 tonnes per day on its land holdings between the community of Wabigoon and Thunder Lake.
Opening questions prompted a discussion of provincially regulated levels of background and blasting noise levels, vibrations and annoyance thresholds to humans and wildlife. Provincial guidelines would limit background industrial noise to 35-40 decibels and blasting levels at 120 decibels.
It was noted that blasting times could be co-ordinated with the community to cause the least disruption.
A local tourism outfitter operator expressed concerns over Wabigoon Lake’s reputation in international angling circles, adding that speculation around water quality has already become a concern for his guests and a talking point for rival tourism districts.
The mine project plans to discharge its treated water into Blackwater Creek which feeds into Wabigoon Lake.
Mine representative Aaron Nelson re-iterated the project’s water treatment system specifications — including an ultra-filter to remove suspended solids followed by a reverse osmosis process similar to a municipal water treatment facility.
“The reverse osmosis-system filters water at the atomic level,” said Nelson. “It removes hardness, calcium, magnesium. This technology is used to take seawater to drinking water standards. So the water that comes out of the treatment facility is better than the water that’s in the creek. We will very likely have to add some stuff back to it to make it suitable for discharge.”
When asked if he would drink the water, Nelson said, “It would meet provincial water quality objectives, so yes, I would.”
Tailings pond containment and overflow scenarios — designed to flow into the open pit and be pumped back into the tailings area — revealed the group’s low tolerance for uncertainty in the wake of British Columbia’s Mt. Polley Mine incident. Closure planning and tailings management after the end of mine operations were another stated concern of the group.
Also of concern was the prospect that the open pit, which will extend as deep as 180 metres, will draw down groundwater from a dozen identified residential wells within a radius of the mine site. Wheeler says Treasury will be monitoring water levels and water quality with its own series of wells and keep nearby residents informed as to their findings with the water table.
“The most affected might be East Thunder Lake Rd. as they’re the closest,” said Wheeler. “There’s a possibility that some of those wells could drop. If it does happen we propose that we provide adequate well water for those affected. We’re not here to be bad neighbours and we don’t think it’s appropriate to leave someone with a well that doesn’t work.”
Aesthetics and visual effects to the landscape were also discussed. Treasury says it hope to mitigate such issue by limiting its waste rock and overburden piles to 30m (98.4 feet) and shaping them on a 3-1 slope to appear more like a natural part of the landscape. The waste rock storage area is expected to be visible at a distance from the south and west facing shorelines of Thunder Lake.