An environmental assessment certificate for the Blackwater Gold Project has been issued to New Gold Inc. by George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and Michelle Mungall, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
New Gold proposes an open-pit gold and silver mine with a project footprint of approximately 4,400 hectares, located approximately 110 kilometres southwest of Vanderhoof. Blackwater is expected to extract 60,000 tonnes of ore per day with a net annual production of 22 million tonnes per year during the mine’s 17-year operational life.
Having considered the Environmental Assessment Office’s (EAO) assessment report, submissions from Indigenous Nations and the recommendation of the EAO’s executive director to issue a certificate, the ministers are confident that Blackwater will be built, operated and closed in a way that ensures that no significant adverse effects are likely to occur. A record of the factors that the ministers considered in making their decision can be found in the Reasons for Ministers’ Decision at: https://www.projects.eao.gov.bc.ca/p/588511c0aaecd9001b82522a/project-details
In addition to the 43 conditions that are part of the Blackwater environmental assessment certificate, design requirements are specified in the certified project description, which are legally binding requirements that New Gold must meet to maintain compliance with the certificate. The conditions were developed in consideration of the issues raised by communities, the public, Indigenous groups and government agencies, and were collaboratively developed with Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation (LDN), Ulkatcho First Nation (UFN), and the Carrier Sekani First Nations (Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, Saik’uz First Nation and Stellat’en First Nation) (CSFNs). To proceed with construction of the project, New Gold is also required to obtain other federal and provincial permits.
Key conditions for Blackwater include:
* country foods monitoring plan;
* community liaison committee and community effects monitoring and management plan;
* air quality and dust management plan;
* noise and vibration monitoring and mitigation plan;
* caribou mitigation and monitoring plan;
* wildlife management plan;
* nine conditions related to reducing impacts on water through implementing mitigation measures, water quality analysis, treatment, monitoring and adaptive management and reporting;
* tailings dam safety transparency plan; and
* Aboriginal group engagement plan, outlining the engagement that New Gold will be required to undertake in implementing the requirements of the certificate.
The EAO collaborated with UFN, LDN and CSFNs, who actively participated in the working group and technical discussions, frequently discussed issues and concerns, provided assessments on the potential impacts from Blackwater on their Aboriginal interests, and worked iteratively with the EAO on the proposed conditions. The EAO also consulted deeply with Nazko First Nation and worked to ensure Nazko First Nation’s concerns were reflected in the proposed conditions. The EAO provided funding to facilitate these groups’ participation in the environmental assessment process.
New Gold estimates construction of the new mine would create 2,436 person years of direct employment in B.C. during the two-year construction period, with $1.29 billion in project expenditures in B.C., contributing $312 million to B.C.’s gross domestic product. During operations, New Gold predicts that Blackwater would directly support 396 full-time equivalent jobs per year, with annual expenditures (excluding labour) of $161 million per year in B.C., directly contributing $258 million to B.C.’s GDP annually.
The EAO and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency worked together to conduct co-ordinated assessments, which included co-chairing working group meetings, co-ordinating consultation activities with Indigenous groups and the public, including hosting a joint public comment period, and jointly identifying and addressing technical issues during the review of technical information provided by New Gold. This co-ordination resulted in the development of a provincial assessment report and a federal environmental assessment report to support separate provincial and federal decisions, respectively. A federal decision statement was issued on April 15, 2019, for Blackwater, allowing the project to proceed pending additional permits and authorizations.
British Columbia’s environmental assessment process offers significant opportunities for Indigenous groups, government agencies and the public to influence the outcome of environmental assessments by providing input on the potential for environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects from a proposed project.