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From the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to Atlantic Mining NS Corporation re: Conformity Review Outcome for the Fifteen Mile Stream Gold Project Environmental Impact Statement

Impact Assessment Agency of Canada
Suite 200
1801 Hollis Street
Halifax NS B3J 3N4

Agence d'évaluation d'impact du Canada
Bureau 200
1801, rue Hollis
Halifax, NÉ B3J 3N4

November 4, 2019

James Millard
Atlantic Mining NS Corp
409 Billybell Way, Mooseland
Middle Musquodoboit, NS B0N 1X0

SUBJECT: Conformity review outcome for the Fifteen Mile Stream Gold Project Environmental Impact Statement

Dear James Millard:

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (the Agency) reviewed the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submitted by Atlantic Mining NS Corp on October 4, 2019 for the Fifteen Mile Stream Gold Project (the Project).

The Agency determined that the EIS does not conform to the requirements of the August, 2018 Guidelines for the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 for the Fifteen Mile Stream Gold Project (the EIS Guidelines). The Agency received advice on the conformity of the EIS from federal authorities.

Annex 1 (attached) identifies the areas where information and/or clarity are required for the EIS to meet the requirements of the EIS Guidelines.

The outcome of this conformity review, including this letter and annexes, as well as submissions from federal authorities that informed this review, will be posted on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry Internet Site, found at: https://iaac-aeic.gc.ca/050/evaluations/proj/80152.

Atlantic Mining NS Corp is required to provide a revised EIS that meets the requirements of the EIS Guidelines, as detailed in Annex 1. The timeline for the federal environmental assessment process will be paused while you complete this work.

Upon receipt of a revised EIS, the Agency will conduct a conformity review in accordance with its Operational Policy Statement: Information Requests and Timelines, February 2016 (https://www.canada.ca/en/impact-assessment-agency/news/media-room/media-room-2016/information-requests-timelines.html.

Once the Agency determines that the EIS conforms with the EIS Guidelines, the environmental assessment can proceed to the technical review and public comment period.

Annex 2 (attached), while not conformity requirements, is advice to Atlantic Mining NS Corp from federal authorities based on their reviews of the EISand should be considered throughout the preparation of the revised EIS, the remainder of the environmental assessment process, and the regulatory processes that follow, as applicable.

The Agency welcomes the opportunity to discuss the outcome of this review with you and to provide further advice on how to best address the outstanding information required to move forward with the assessment process. If you have any questions about the content of this letter or conformity review table, please contact the undersigned at 902-426-4716 or via email at CEAA.FifteenMile.ACEE@ceaa-acee.gc.ca.

Sincerely,

<Original signed by>

Nicole Scotney
Project Manager

Annex 1 – Detailed Conformity Gaps

Requirement of the EIS Guideline
(Please refer to the August 31, 2018 EIS Guidelines for the complete text. Text in this column is for reference only.)

Section of the EIS

Information Requirement

PART 1

4.3 Study strategy and methodology

"The proponent will provide the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia the opportunity to review and provide comments on the information used for describing and assessing effects on the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia (further information on engaging with the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia groups is provided in Part 2, section 5 of this document). The proponent will respond to the comments of the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia prior to submitting the EIS to ensure that the comments are adequately addressed. Where there are discrepancies in the views of the proponent and the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia on the information to be used in the EIS, the EIS will document these discrepancies and the rationale for the proponent's selection of information."

Throughout

Clarify whether the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia (Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office, Millbrook First Nation and Sipekne'katik First Nation) were provided with the opportunity to review and provide comments on the information used for describing and assessing effects on the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia.

Document efforts that were undertaken by the proponent to provide Indigenous groups with the opportunity to review and provide comments on the information used for describing and assessing effects on Indigenous peoples, including impacts on Aboriginal or Treaty rights.

Demonstrate that the proponent responded to the comments provided by the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia to ensure that the comments are adequately addressed.

4. Preparation and Presentation of the Environmental Impact Statement

4.5 Summary of the environmental impact statement

EIS Summary

In the EIS summary, include an overview of how the factors under paragraph 19(1) of CEAA 2012 were considered, specifically the environmental effects of malfunctions or accidents, cumulative effects and changes to the project caused by the environment.

Improve the clarity of Figures throughout the EIS Summary, in particular:

  • Figure 1: .1- label all roads as they appear in the text (e.g. Beaver Dam Haul Road)
  • Figure 1: .2- include all relevant project components, including site access, proposed and existing bypass roads/routes.

PART 2

3. PROJECT DESCRIPTION

3.1 Project Components

Map Book

Improve the clarity of Figures throughout the EIS, in particular:

  • Figure 1: .1-1- label all roads as they appear in the text (e.g. Beaver Dam Haul Road)
  • Figure 1: .1-2- include all relevant project components, including site access, proposed and existing bypass roads/routes
  • Figure 2: .1-4- include haul roads.

3.2. Project activities

Section 2.4.6

Section 4.5

Describe how the changes made to the project since originally proposed considered feedback from the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia during engagement sessions and how the changes benefit the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia.

Section 2.2.19

Demonstrate that the planned Seloam Brook Diversion is technically feasible and that the diversion channel (as well as upstream and downstream watercourses) will remain stable over the long term since the diversion is permanent.

Provide detailed information about the proposed Seloam Brook Diversion such as:

  • the preliminary design of the diversion channel
    • the gradient, width and depth of the proposed diversion channel
    • whether alterations to watercourses at the downstream end of the diversion channel need to be made to accommodate anticipated flows and remain stable over the long term
    • the fish habitat functions and features the diversion channel will provide
  • the construction methods and materials
    • the planned sequencing and timing of the construction and operation of the Seloam Brook Diversion in relation to other relevant project components such as construction of the diversion berm
  • the studies and modelling that have been done to demonstrate that the diversion channel will be appropriately designed and sized to accommodate the anticipated flows and remain stable over the long term
  • whether Nova Scotia Power's most recent operational requirements and procedures for upstream and downstream reservoirs and dams have been factored into the design of the diversion channel.

Section 2.6.12.1

Provide an assessment of whether the Seloam Brook Diversion and diversion berms around the open pit will be able to accept and function in the event of elevated flows under various dam operational scenarios, and under what circumstances this may occur.

5. INDIGENOUS ENGAGEMENT AND CONCERNS

5. Indigenous Engagement and Concerns

Section 4

Section 4.5

Appendix K.1

Describe how engagement activities by the proponent allowed Indigenous groups to understand the project and evaluate its impacts on their communities, activities, potential or established Aboriginal or Treaty rights. Where impacts are identified, provide a discussion of how those would be managed or mitigated (and provide this information for each Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia group separately, including those communities represented by KMKNO, Millbrook First Nation and Sipekne'katik First Nation).

Describe the impacts identified by the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia during engagement activities and the approaches the proponent discussed to manage or mitigate those impacts.

Describe the efforts made to discuss the degree of those impacts after mitigation (residual effects) with the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia before submitting the EIS to the Agency.

Describe how the following requirement in section 5 of the EIS Guidelines was fulfilled: "The proponent will facilitate these meetings by making key EA summary documents (baseline studies, EIS, key findings, plain language summaries) accessible in advance. The proponent will ensure there are sufficient opportunities for individuals and groups to provide oral input in the language of their choice. If possible, the proponent should consider translating information for these groups into the appropriate Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia languages(s) in order to facilitate engagement activities during the EA."

6. IMPACTS TO POTENTIAL OR ESTABLISHED ABORIGINAL OR TREATY RIGHTS

6. Impacts to Potential or Established Aboriginal or Treaty Rights

Section 4.4

Section 6.13, Section 6.14

Appendix H.1

Based on additional information collected in fulfillment of conformity gaps noted throughout Annex 1, update the EIS as applicable. For example:

  • location(s) in which rights are being practiced or exercised
  • context in which the right is practiced or exercised (including information about which groups of an Indigenous group practice the right (women, elders, youth etc.), how the right was practiced historically)
  • how the Indigenous group's cultural traditions, laws and governance systems inform the manner in which they exercise their rights (the who, what, when, how, where, and why)
  • the Indigenous group's perspectives on the importance of the land on which the Project is located and how it intersects with any land management uses and/or plans they may have
  • how often the right is practiced or exercised and timing or seasonality of the practice or exercise of the right
  • maps and data sets (e.g. fish catch numbers).

If information is not provided or available, include a rationale.

Include the perspectives of the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia concerning the proposed mitigations and adverse direct and cumulative effects, including but not limited to their views of the proposed bypass roads, ability to pursue traditional activities on nearby crown land, potential effects of the proposed Seloam Brook diversion, etc.

7. EFFECTS ASSESSMENT

7.1.4 Riparian, wetland and terrestrial environments

Section 6.7

Wetland species composition for the wetlands identified within the Fifteen Mile Stream Gold study area. This must include, as a minimum, representative vegetation composition for each wetland type.

7.1.5 Groundwater and surface water

Section 6.5

Section 6.6

Appendix B.2

Appendices F.1 and F.2

The EIS requires an appropriate hydrogeologic model for the project area, which discusses the hydrostratigraphy and groundwater flow systems; a sensitivity analysis will be performed to test model sensitivity to climatic variations (e.g. recharge) and hydrogeologic parameters (e.g. hydraulic conductivity). Provide information or a sufficient rationale for the omission of the following from the hydrogeological model:

  • addressing the zones of "enhanced hydraulic conductivity"
  • regional (deep) groundwater flow regime
  • the use of large uniform beds to represent fractured rock
  • calibration of the model using baseflow (and not just heads) from streams
  • the irregular model extent shape
  • representative ranges of input parameters that represent the hydrogeological conditions that are then assessed in the sensitivity analysis.

Provide a sensitivity analysis to assess the effects in the event that some potentially acid generating waste rock is classified, incorrectly, as non-acid generating wasterock and be then either used for construction purposes or stored in the incorrect waste rock stockpile.

Section 6.6.2

Describe the monitoring protocol for the collection of surface water data.

Section 6.6.3

Provide baseline information pertaining to the bathymetry, maximum and mean depths, and water level fluctuations for all watercourses described in the EIS. As the reference document "McCallum (2019") is not publically available, a description of the baseline data collection methodology is not available.

Provide a characterization of groundwater – surface water interactions.

Describe the temperature changes in surface water as a result of groundwater-surface water interactions.

7.1.6 Fish and fish habitat

Section 6.8.3.1

Describe the seasonal variation of primary and secondary productivity in the affected water bodies.

Describe the habitat by homogenous section for potentially affected surface waters. Specifically, provide further detail of the watercourses in Table 6.6-6 including:

  • a description of the riparian vegetation
  • water depths
  • representative photos for each homogenous section of watercourse.

7.1.10 Indigenous Peoples

Section 6.13

Appendix K.1

Appendix H.1

Describe the Mi'kmaq of NS populations and subpopulations. Demonstrate how the differences of experiences by sub-populations within an Indigenous group (e.g. women, youth, elders, families) were considered in the description of baseline information for Indigenous peoples and cumulative effects.

Describe the overall quality of the experience of the practice (e.g. noise, air quality, visual landscape, presence of others).

Provide a model or virtual representation of the Project area (before construction, during operation, decommissioning and post reclamation) to illustrate how the visual landscape from nearby areas; including areas used by Indigenous groups such as Seloam Lake and Highway 374 will be affected.

7.2.2 Changes to Groundwater and Surface Water

Section 6.6.6

Section 6.6.8

Describe how project activities may impact pH, turbidity, or temperature in the surrounding waterbodies. If no changes to pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, or temperature are anticipated, substantiate conclusions with scientific knowledge. Clearly state assumptions and describe how each assumption was tested.

7.3.1 Fish and fish habitat

Section 6.8.6

Provide an assessment of potential impacts to fish habitat in watercourses immediately upstream and downstream of the Seloam Brook Diversion.

Indicate how the channel morphology and other relevant fish habitat features and functions change within watercourses immediately upstream and downstream of the Seloam Brook Diversion change.

Provide the current seasonal water levels and flows in these watercourses and indicate how will the diversion channel affect them.

Section 6.8.6

Section 6.8.8

Provide an assessment of the potential effects to the food web or the potential effects on primary and secondary productivity.

Section 2.2.1.9

Provide additional information and detail regarding the purpose and construction of the Seloam Brook Diversion. Specifically, describe how the Seloam Brook Diversion channel and associated berms will provide fish habitat components and features.

Table 6.8-20

Describe the effects on ongoing water withdrawal requirements from Seloam Lake on fish and fish habitat. Include a rationale and relevant information to support any determinations of whether or not fish habitat in Seloam Lake will be potentially impacted by water withdrawals.

7.3.5 Indigenous Peoples

Section 6.13

Section 6.14

Appendix K.1

Appendix H.1

Demonstrate how potential effects to mental and social well-being on the Mi'kmaq of NS were considered in the assessment of potential project effects to Indigenous health and socioeconomic conditions, and any incidental effects on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes

Describe how the effects of changes to the environment on Indigenous peoples could be different for particular sub-populations within an Indigenous group (e.g., women, youth, elders, specific families).

Provide an assessment of impacts to human health assessing effects of changes to the environment on the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia's socio-economic conditions, including, but not limited to:

  • the use of navigable waters (including any water used for Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia transport)
  • forestry and logging operations
  • commercial fishing, hunting, trapping, and gathering activities (e.g., Food, Social, Ceremonial and Communal Commercial fishing licenses and the right to fish for a moderate livelihood)
  • commercial outfitters
  • recreational use
  • food security
  • income inequity
  • changes at the community level that affect socio-economic conditions for the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia as a result of increased population, economic activity, cost of living, among other factors
  • non-commercial / trade economy.

Describe how the proponent considered in its assessment:

  • the regional context for traditional use, and the value of the project area in that regional context, including alienation of lands from traditional use
  • potential to return affected areas to pre-project conditions to support traditional practices (including the identification of end land use goals).

Describe potential effects to the practice of current use or activities, including:

  • accessing areas and resources without difficulty or additional cost used to conduct an activity or practice, as well as the opening up of areas to non-Indigenous populations for access and use, and consideration of preferred areas, timing of harvest, and options of traveling there in preferred manner
  • changes that affect the spiritual and cultural experiences of the activity or practice, as well as sense of place and wellbeing, and the applicability and transmission of Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia knowledge, laws, customs and traditions.

7.5 Significance of Residual Effects

Section 6.6.5.6

Provide a definition for Significant Adverse Effects for both surface water quality and quantity .

9. FOLLOW-UP AND MONITORING

9.1 Follow-up Program

Throughout

Describe how Indigenous groups were engaged regarding the design or proposed implementation of the follow-up and monitoring program(s).

General

Missing information

Appendix K.1

Update the Summary of Engagement Activities with Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia (Appendix K.1) beyond April 21, 2019.

Correct table number

Summary document, Section 6.10.2, page 113

There is reference to Table 6.10-5, but it should read Table 6.10-3.

Correct table number

Summary document, Section 6.11.2, page 118

There is reference to Table 6.11-2, but it should read Table 6.11-1.

Include tables

Summary document, Section 6.12.4, page 129

There is reference to tables that are not in the report. " …are not carried forward in the tables below." Ensure tables referenced in the report are included in the EIS.

Edit spelling

Section 4.4.3, page 120

"Support to the Mawita'jik "Let Use Gather" …, should read "Let Us Gather".

Insert correct Figure number

Section 6.17.7, page 767

Reference to a figure appears as "provided on Error! Reference source not found" confirm this should be "provided on Figure 6.17-1".

Be consistent with terms

Section 6.17.7, page 767

Figure 6: .17-1 Risk Ranking Matrix is referred to in the text as a Risk Rating Matrix.

Correct units

Section 8.5.2.1, page 820

The text for µg is illegible.

Inaccurate information

Table 9.1-3: Summary of Mitigation Measures

page 893

Table 6.13-7: Mitigation and Monitoring Programs for Potential Effects on the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia

page 686

The following statement is inaccurate and needs to be revised: The Proponent to support joint funding initiatives with CEAA for Mi'kmaq third party review of the Proponent's proposed mitigation and monitoring programs during EIS review. Scope and scale of this commitment to be determined.

The Agency does not provide specific funding initiatives for Mi'kmaq third party review.

Annex 2: Advice to the proponent

Department

Reference to EIS

Context and Rationale

Advice to the Proponent

DFO-1

Appendix D.3 – Conceptual Fish Habitat Offsetting Plan

This is standard advice to proponents regarding habitat offsetting measures required for Fisheries Act authorizations.

To offset harmful alteration, disruption, and destruction (HADD) of fish habitat from the Project, the Conceptual Fish Habitat Offsetting Plan will need to be revised and take into consideration habitat quality, uncertainty, and time-lag.

Project components, such as the Seloam Brook Diversion Channel, cannot be used as offsetting measures; however, any fish habitat features included in project components may mitigate the area of residual HADD that must be offset.

It is recommended that the proponent seek further advice from DFO regarding offsetting the HADD of fish habitat.

DFO-2

Section 6.83 Baseline Conditions - Fish and Fish Habitat

This is standard advice to proponents regarding the information required to demonstrate fish absence from a waterbody.

DFO assumes that waterbodies with hydrological connectivity to fish-bearing waterbodies are frequented by fish unless the proponent is able to demonstrate otherwise. Determination of the absence of fish from a waterbody is difficult and the ultimate "proof" of absence must be associated with the most intensive and efficient sampling procedures appropriate for the habitat, species, life stage, and time of year. Fish sampling procedures should include multi-season sampling events, and utilize multiple gear-types with appropriate methods wherever possible. Fish sampling efforts should be well documented: date/time, GPS locations, datasheets, photos, effort, catch, etc.

Within the Project area the annual maximum flows and water levels typically occur in April followed by November and December

whereas annual minimum flows and water levels typically occur July through September. To demonstrate fish absence from a waterbody, fish sampling and hydraulic connectivity assessments should be timed to coincide with annual maximum flows and water levels.

DFO-3

Section 6.8.2.1.1.5 Fish Habitat Assessment

This is standard advice to proponents regarding the information required to describe fish habitat in FMS Study Area and the significance of effects to fish habitat from the Project.

The appropriateness of the use of the Standard Methods Guide for Freshwater Fish and Fish Habitat Surveys in Newfoundland and Labrador: Rivers and Streams and Beak (1980) to describe the quality of fish habitat for the FMS Study Area and the significance of effects of the Project on fish habitat is questionable.

It is our understanding that the FMS Study Area is effectively inaccessible to Atlantic Salmon. Therefore, using Atlantic Salmon as an index for the relative quality and productivity of the streams, waterbodies, and wetlands for fish populations may not be the most appropriate or practical approach.

It may be more relevant and better suited to describe the habitat quality in terms of the fish species that are known to be present in the FMS Study Area and how those species utilize the area.

Obviously, brook trout are salmonids. However, their tolerances and preferences and life history differ from Atlantic Salmon. Furthermore, the other fish species known to be present in the FMS Study Area differ greatly from Atlantic Salmon.

Basing habitat types and describing the habitat quality in reference to Atlantic Salmon spawning and rearing habitat may not be relevant given the type of habitat present at the FMS Study Area.

For example, poor quality juvenile salmonid rearing habitat with no spawning capability may be moderate to good quality habitat for other fish species.

ECCC-1

Section 2.2.1.11, Page 34

It is stated "The TMF is located to the east and up gradient of the open pit and

is situated in a position that limits interactions with wetlands and streams frequented by fish to the maximum practical extent."

If the TMF footprint is located on waters frequent by fish, the proponent will have to go through the Schedule 2 amendment process under Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (MDMER). "Maximum practical extent" is not an option.

ECCC-2

Section 2.2.1.5 – Overburden Till Stockpile

The volume of overburden was not provided.

Please provide the volume of overburden.

ECCC-3

Section 2.2.1.6 – Topsoil and Organic Material Stockpiles

The volume of topsoil was not provided.

Please provide the volume of topsoil.

ECCC-4

Section 2.4.2.1.2 – Waste Rock Management

The potential for metal leaching was not discussed in this section.

Provide a discussion on the potential for metal leaching.

TC-01

Sub-paragraph, 1.3.1.5Navigation Protection Act, 1985 (Page 13)

Refers to Transport Canada (TC)'s Navigation Protection Act and communication with TC regarding any requirements as part of the project.

The Canadian Navigable Waters Act (CNWA) came into force on August 28, 2019.

The CNWA still possesses a Schedule of waterways to which the Act applies, however, as previously indicated, the proposed project does not appear to implicate any Scheduled waterways pursuant to the CNWA. HOWEVER, the EIS mentions the use of a Tailing Management Facility and other water control structures involving tailings disposal/storage.

Infilling or dewatering ofanynavigable waterway remains prohibited under the CNWA and requires anExemption by Order of the Governor in Councilpursuant to Section 24 of the CNWA.This requirement can only be ascertained once the proponent submits a Notice of Work detailing the work, its effects, and the nature of the water bodies that may be involved/ affected.

It is also understood that elements of the project may involve the diversion of watercourses. Under the Major Works Order made pursuant to the CNWA, proposed water control structures located on ANY navigable waterway that divert water, or change the water levels of watercourses require a CNWA approval (on scheduled OR non-scheduled waterways)

Finally, with respect to any new or existing works located on non-scheduled waterways (culverts/ bridges etc.) that may require construction, placement, alteration, repair or replacement as part of the overall project – under the CNWA, owners of works – (other than a minor work or a major work) - that are located on navigable waterways not listed in the schedule, which may interfere with navigation, have the option to:

  1. either apply to the Minister of Transport for approval (approval review process and advertising and 30 day registry public review); or
  2. seek authorization through the public resolution process, and deposit specific information regarding their work on the new Common Project Search (online registry) inviting any interested party to comment.

(advertising and 30 day registry public review)

With the coming into force of the CNWA, the Navigation Protection Program has transitioned to the use of the external submission site (ESS) linked below. This is the central point to submit an application for an approval or to publish a notification for a work:

https://wwwapps.tc.gc.ca/Prog/3/NWAR-RLEN-E/en/Account/Login

The proponent will need to create an account first.

Once an application Is submitted on the ESS, it will be pushed to the Common Project Search Registry: https://common-project-search.canada.ca/ for public review.

Additional guidance information and links for the NPP regulatory process can be found here:

Canadian Navigable Waters Act

https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/programs-632.html

https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/canadian-navigable-waters-act.html

Navigation Protection Program, Transport Canada

http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/programs-621.html

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