Telegraph Journal

Feds Approve Sisson Mine Waterway Plan

Adam Huras

Jul 10, 2019
OTTAWA - The Trudeau government has approved a proposed multi-million dollar mine's plan to use waterways through central New Brunswick as tailing ponds, sparking backlash from environmental groups.

It's a major step for the proposed Sisson mine project north of Fredericton.

Conservation groups are warning that the decision could not only have an environmental impact on the waterways in question, but the Nashwaak and St. John rivers.

In June 2017, the federal government approved the $579-million Sisson Partnership tungsten and molybdenum mine, located about 60 kilometres northwest of Fredericton. The mine is projected to create 500 short-term jobs during the construction phase and 300 long-term jobs during its 27-year lifespan.

That said, the project intends to use nearby waters to dispose of the mine waste that will be generated by operations. An Order in Council has announced the approval of a request to do so.

Greg Davidson, a spokesperson for The Sisson Partnership, acknowledged on Monday the move by the federal government, but declined an interview request until the changes were published in the Canada Gazette, likely to occur this week.

However, Davidson said in a statement that the announcement "is not a permit to release untreated mine waste or wastewater into the environment."

The disposal of mine tailings will be into an enclosed storage facility that contains part of the tributaries and is "subject to provincial and federal water quality discharge limits to ensure protection of the receiving waters," he said.

"The project is obliged, by law, to meet these limits or lose its permits," Davidson said.

The federal government published draft regulatory changes in February to allow 1. 74 hectares of waterways near the proposed Sisson mine project to be used for the storage of wastewater.

"The proposed tailings storage facility would result in the loss of portions of Bird Brook and a tributary to West Branch Napadogan Brook, which are frequented by fish," reads a federal regulatory impact assessment.

It adds that brook trout, slimy sculpin, American eel, and Atlantic salmon are found in those waterways.

In total, 5.44 hectares offish habitat "will be destroyed" when including the footprint of the mine, according to the impact assessment.

"This was one permit or approval the project needed to go forward and there are still quite a few outstanding,'' Conservation Council of New Brunswick executive director Lois Corbett said in an interview on Monday.

"It's not a done deal and it's not over."

The project was already approved by the New Brunswick government in 2015, but was subject to 40 conditions.

The province didn't immediately respond Monday to a request detailing what the company needs to complete before pushing forward.

Corbett also questioned the economics of the tungsten and molybdenum mine, citing the declining price for metals, then noting that the project's main proponent, Northcliff, has been dealing with its own volatility on the stock market. Its stock has been hovering around the six-cent mark, down from its five year high of 38 cents in October 2013.

Nashwaak Watershed Association executive director Marieka Chaplin said her group worries about seepage of tailings waste, while requesting a third-party review of the mine's management plan.

To offset the loss offish habitat, the project's proponents are required to develop and implement a "fish habitat compensation plan."

That includes paying to remove a partial fish barrier to fish passage in Lower Lake Dam, as proposed by local First Nations, as well as reintroducing alewife, a type of herring, in the Nashwaak watershed, a fish species that was historically present in Nashwaak Lake before the construction of the dams.

The cost of that, along with a few other measures, is $954,000. Chaplin said that's too little.

"It's not just the Naskwaak, it's the St. John River and elsewhere,

it's all connected,'' Chaplin said.

More Posts