What Is An Environmental Assessment?
An Environmental Assessment (EA) is a government driven planning and decision-making process, used to identify potential environmental effects and propose measure to mitigate adverse environmental effects. The EA predicts whether there will be significant adverse environmental effects after mitigation measures are implemented. An EA will also include a follow-up program to verify the accuracy of the EA and the effectiveness of the mitigation measures.
Federal and Provincial EAs in Ontario may be coordinated so that a single EA meets the legal requirements of both jurisdictions. The Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) leads this process in Ontario pursuant to the Environmental Assessment Act. Federally, this process is led by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012).
An EA includes:
- A description of the proposed project;
- A description of the existing environmental conditions (baseline studies);
- Plans to involve and seek feedback from Aboriginals, communities, neighbours, and other interested stakeholders;
- When appropriate, an evaluation of project alternatives;
- The identification of possible environmental effects (positive or negative),
- Proposed measure to mitigate and manage identified environmental effects; and
- Recommendations for follow-up monitoring.
The EA process ensures that:
- Opportunities are provided for Aboriginal communities, municipalities, neighbours and other interested stakeholders to participate in the environmental assessment;
- Environmental factors are included in project planning and decision-making;
- Potential effects of the Project are identified early; and
- Measures are identified to avoid, manage, or mitigate effects on the environment.
Federal Environmental Assessment
IAMGOLD submitted a Project Description (March 15, 2013) to Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. CEAA used the Project Description to determine if a Federal EA is required under CEAA 2012. Based on the Project Description, comments received during the 20-day comment period, and the possibility that carrying out the Project has the potential to cause adverse environmental effects, CEAA determined that a Federal EA is required, and provided Notice of Environmental Assessment Determination (May 10, 2013).
The Project Description is used by CEAA to assist in the development of the Environmental Impact Statement Guidelines. These EIS Guideline prescribe the scope of the Federal EA for the Project. CEAA issues the draft EIS Guidelines for public comment prior to finalizing and issuing it to IAMGOLD.
CEAA issued the Draft EIS Guidelines to IAMGOLD on May 13, 2013. The draft EIS guidelines were then made available for public review and comment. CEAA then considered the comments received and finalized the EIS Guidelines. The Final EIS Guidelines were issued by CEAA to IAMGOLD on July 9, 2013.
CEAA 2012 provides CEAA 365 days from the commencement of an environmental assessment to providing the proponent with the final environmental assessment decision. These timelines apply to government activities, but not to the periods of time required for the proponent to gather information needed to complete the environmental assessment. The Minister may extend these timelines for up to three months to enable cooperation with another jurisdiction or because of circumstances that are specific to the project. The federal Cabinet can also extend timelines beyond the three months.
The next step in the federal process is for IAMGOLD to submit the EIS in accordance with the guidelines provided by CEAA. This step will be coordinated with the provincial EA process to minimize duplication, where practicable, and will rely on one body of documentation to satisfy both processes. Following review of the EIS material, CEAA will prepare a draft EA report for public comment, prior to submitting a final EA report to the federal Minister of the Environment. Following review, the Minister will issue a decision statement as to whether or not the Project will result in significant adverse environment effects, potentially with conditions. If the Minister concludes that no significant adverse environmental effects will occur as a result of the project, the project will proceed into permitting as required.
On May 9th, 2014 IAMGOLD submitted an Environmental Impact Statement to CEAA for conformity review. On May 20th, 2014, CEAA advised IAMGOLD that the information conformed to the EIS guideline requirements and that CEAA would commence a technical review of the EIS, led by CEAA with the support of federal departments. They also advised that they would initiate a public comment period, commencing June 2, 2014 through to July 2, 2014.
In keeping with the intent to coordinate the federal EIS timeline with the provincial EA process, one body of documentation was developed to satisfy both of these processes.
Following review of the EIS material, CEAA will prepare a draft EA report for additional public comment, prior to submitting a final EA report to the federal Minister of the Environment. Following the Minister’s review, a decision statement will be issued identifying whether or not the Project will result in significant adverse environment effects, and may potentially include conditions that must be met. If the Minister concludes that no significant adverse environmental effects will occur as a result of the Project, the Project will proceed into permitting as required.
Provincial Environmental Assessment
IAMGOLD entered into a Voluntary Agreement (May 3, 2013) with the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) to conduct a Provincial Individual EA for the Project. The intent of volunteering is to facilitate meeting the Provincial EA requirements within one environmental assessment for subsequent Provincial permits and approvals.
The first step in the study is the preparation of a Terms of Reference (ToR). IAMGOLD voluntarily issued a Draft ToR (May 10, 2013) for a 30-day review and comment period that ended on June 9, 2013. The ToR provides the proposed framework and requirements for the preparation of the environmental assessment to meet the needs of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act. Accompanying the ToR is a Record of Consultation. The Record of Consultation documents all engagement and consultation activities completed by IAMGOLD, up to the date of the documents submission.
Comments received on the draft ToR were incorporated, as appropriate, into the Proposed ToR and Record of Consultation. Both documents were submitted to the MOE for review and approval. A government-led consultation period on the Proposed ToR and Record of Consultation ran from July 19, to August 19, 2013. IAMGOLD received approval on the Proposed ToR from the Provincial Minister of Environment on January 14, 2014.
Receiving approval on the ToR signified the official commencement of the Environmental Assessment for the Project. IAMGOLD issued a public Notice of Commencement of Environmental Assessment in local newspapers, and the Project website between February 18 – 20, 2014.
As committed within the approved ToR, IAMGOLD agreed to prepare a draft Environmental Assessment Report to provide sufficient opportunity for Aboriginal groups, government agencies and the general public to be consulted on the Project prior to the submission of a final EA Report. Information about upcoming consultation activities can be obtained in the recently published Notice of Consultation Opportunity.
Permits And Approvals
IAMGOLD will continue to work with Federal and Provincial regulators to ensure all necessary permits and identified and acquired. Aside from the Federal and Provincial environmental assessments, some of the permits and approvals that may be required include:
- Work in and displacement of waters frequented by fish, in navigable water ways
- Species at Risk or Endangered Species permits;
- Environmental compliance approvals for industrial sewage, air and noise, potable water;
- Permit to take water;
- Construction permits; and
- Closure Plan