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Provincial environmental assessment certificate granted for Cariboo Gold

George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, speaks at the Canadian Bioeconomy Conference and Exhibition in Prince George Friday. Bill Phillips photo
George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

VICTORIA – A B.C. environmental assessment certificate has been issued to Osisko Development Corp. for the Cariboo Gold project in central British Columbia, following a joint decision by provincial ministers.

George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, made their decision after considering the environmental assessment by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).

Cariboo Gold is a proposed underground gold mine in Wells. It was the first project entirely assessed under the new 2018 Environmental Assessment Act.

The project assessment involved extensive consultation with technical experts, First Nations, provincial agencies, local governments, a community advisory committee and the public. In making their decision, the ministers listened to and considered the concerns brought forward that the Cariboo Gold project could result in potential adverse effects on residents in Wells, First Nations access to land and the Barkerville woodland caribou herd.

As a result, the ministers included 22 legally binding conditions in the environmental assessment certificate, intended to prevent or reduce potential adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural and health effects from Cariboo Gold.

With these legally binding requirements, and Osisko Development Corp.’s project design features that will reduce Cariboo Gold’s impacts on the community of Wells and the environment, the ministers determined that significant adverse effects can be prevented or mitigated.

Key requirements include:

  • a plan to minimize impacts on the local community and tourism, through: a limit on the maximum allowable noise from the project; performing blasting only during the day; using vegetation to screen buildings and other facilities to minimize visual impacts for residents and visitors; limiting truck traffic near residential areas; strict policies around work camps, including to prevent gender-based violence and restrict use of tourist accommodations by workers; hiring 75 per cent of workers from the region (if qualified); a strategy developed with the District of Wells to mitigate pressures on recreation and tourism; and supporting community events to promote arts and culture. Osisko also must hold regular community meetings and ensure timely response to concerns;
  • establishing a new, clean drinking water supply for the District of Wells;
  • mitigation and monitoring measures to reduce emissions and maintain air quality;
  • managing effects on the environment, in particular to mitigate impacts to wildlife, habitat and bodies of water, overseen by an independent environmental monitor;
  • working with the province to support remediation in the District of Wells and along the shore of Jack of Clubs Lake, contaminated by a previous mine’s tailings containing arsenic, cobalt, cadmium, lead and other contaminants; and
  • a specific plan to minimize impacts to the Barkerville woodland caribou herd, including monitoring, mitigation measures and offsets for habitat disturbance.

The project will employ an average of 200 workers during construction, peaking at close to 300 workers, and will employ almost 500 during operations.

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