Hearing into mine near Marathon, Ont., begins 

By Carl Clutchey

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

MARATHON, ONT.-The proponent behind a proposed palladium and copper mine near Marathon gave assurances Monday on the first day of an environmental hearing into the project that a main waterway flowing into Lake Superior would not be impacted.

But concerns were raised regarding the potential for leaks from the open-pit mine’s waste-ore facility.

Drew Anwyll, a senior Generation Mining executive, told the virtual hearing being convened from Ottawa that during construction and “under normal operations” the mine “should not discharge” into the Pic River.

Part of the mine’s proposed footprint is close to the wide waterway, which flows past Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation located about 20 kilometres from the planned mine site.

Anwyll said during discussions with Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, the company committed to protecting the Pic River and Bamoos Lake watersheds.

In general, the company said, it is not “predicted” that the mine would cause any “significant adverse environmental effects, nor significant cumulative effects,” if mitigation measures are implemented.

The hearing, which is being live-streamed on YouTube, is being overseen by a panel of three experts appointed by the federal and provincial governments. The panel is to recommend, possibly by June, whether the mine proposal should proceed, or be declined.

If approved, the project would create 375 jobs a short drive from Marathon and operate for 13 years.

It would take up to two years to build, Generation Mining says.

During Monday’s session, lawyer Suraj Dave told the hearing that the Angler Creek area located in the direct vicinity of the project is part of Pays Plat First Nation’s traditional hunting and fishing grounds.

In particular, Dave said, Pays Plat is worried about the potential for a leak in the mine’s waste-ore (tailings) facility, which could contaminate Hare Lake.

Pays Plat Coun. Raymond Goodchild noted during the hearing that some of his fellow band members live in Marathon, and therefore have a stake in the area not becoming contaminated.

“We are all connected to this area,” said Goodchild.

The hearing also heard from Jackfish Metis Association representative Jon MacDonald, who said the Generation Mining project has been studied long enough and should be given the green light to proceed.

“It’s time to move on and get the shovels in the ground,” MacDonald said.

Concerns about potential impacts on caribou are misplaced, MacDonald told the hearing, because the animals have long left the area.

“We’d all like to see the caribou come back, but with all due respect, we don’t see that happening,” MacDonald said.

When asked by a panel member about a provincial report about caribou, MacDonald acknowledged that he had not read it in full.

Anwyll noted there is no commercial fishery in the immediate vicinity of the proposed mine, but said efforts would still be made to protect local species sought by anglers.

Generation Mining is touting the mine has a local source of so-called green minerals: palladium for pollution-control exhaust systems in gas-powered cars and trucks, and copper for batteries when the demand for electric-powered vehicles increases.

The company earlier reached an understanding to work toward an economic impact agreement with Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation.

During introductory remarks at the start of Monday’s hearing, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg Chief Duncan Michano noted the mine is “right next to our sacred (Pic) river.”

Michano said the process of determining whether the mine should be approved centres on “trying to balance what we develop, and what we set aside for future generations.”

What is “critical,” Michano said, is the federal and provincial government’s “duty” to mitigate any potential negative impacts the mine could cause if it is approved.

 Carl Clutchey  is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of THE CHRONICLE-JOURNAL . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

 

 

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