Part 2 – Environmental Assessments: Soil, Water, Air
Stantec Consulting Ltd., on behalf of the company, has collected samples in the field and incorporated data from historical sources. Stantec has analyzed the samples and drawn conclusions.
Stantec collected soil from mine sites. Historic mine site soils exceeded acceptable criteria for antimony, arsenic, boron, and molybdenum. The mine tailings soils (from the old MacLeod-Cockshutt and Hardrock mines) exceeded criteria for antimony, arsenic, free cyanide, iron, and manganese.
In an effort to understand the geochemistry of materials that will be generated by the Hardrock Project, Stantec collected and tested over 500 samples of ore, waste rock, overburden, and tailings. Stantec analyzed approximately 8,000 more samples for total sulphur and carbon, and trace element concentrations. It is not clear from the documents how the Project will utilize this information.
More exact technical data has been published on the Premier Gold Mines website, but the non-technical mind will find the information formidable.
Stantec also collected groundwater samples. It determined that, overall, groundwater in overburden and shallow bedrock flows towards Kenogamisis Lake.
The layman may find the information on surface water quality more understandable. Barton Bay does have elevated levels of toxic metals whose primary source “appears to be the MacLeod Tailings and phosphorus from the Municipal Sewage Treatment Plant”. The Hardrock mine tailings contribute arsenic to the Central Basin of Kenogamisis Lake.
Historical mining activities have also contributed elevated levels of arsenic in the lake via Mosher Lake, Marron Creek, the SW Arm Tributary (a recently named creek flowing into the Southwest Arm), and sundry creeks.
Stantec concluded that air quality is influenced by the community of Geraldton, by traffic on Highway 11, and by “potential long range transport of contaminants from other emissions sources”. In the latter case, residents can recall smoke and/or hazy skies attributed to forest fires and even distant volcanic eruptions.
An air monitoring station was established near the Project’s main site in November 2014 and operated until June 2015. In a comment on the draft Terms of Reference, Ontario Parks stated that it “is concerned that air quality will decrease due to open pit mining and on site processing/crushing,” citing dust, odour, and chemicals.
Stantec established three monitoring stations to capture sound emissions. During daytime house, vehicular traffic accounted for most noises, and during nighttime hours, the natural environment did. No surprises there. There is no indication of how this information will be utilized.
On the topic of surface water, the Project is proposing to divert a creek and construct a canal. Goldfield Creek drains Goldfield Lake into the Southwest Arm. The creek runs across the area proposed as a tailings management facility. The Project proposes to divert the flow northeast, across a low height of land, into a watercourse labeled SW Tributary, which empties into the Southwest Arm closer to the Project’s main site. The Project’s original proposal would have meant the diversion of Goldfield Creek into the Wintering River system.
The open houses on November 18 did suggest that the diversion was a response to a concern from outside the Project. The Aboriginal community did address this issue during the draft Terms of Reference process, preferring that the Project “eliminate the need for watercourse alignments” and “include separate alternative methods”.
The studies referenced earlier influenced the location of proposed waste rock storage areas. The Project wished to avoid the proximity of numerous surface water occurrences. As the map shows, four primary areas are named Waste Rock A, B, C, and D. There are two contingency areas, one of which (AC) is located on the front 9 holes (the historic 9) of Kenogamisis Golf Club. Waste Rock A will obliterate the back 9 holes (the newer 9) behind the Interpretive Centre. The contingency areas, of course, would be used only if necessary.
Another consideration (primarily a financial one) was to reduce the distance of the truck haul from the open pit.
The studies may have influenced the realignment of Highway 11 (described in Part 3).