Trent Ernst, Editor
The Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) has rejected Glencore’s proposed Sukunka Coal Mine Environmental Assessment (EA) application.
According to the EAO, the application “does not provide an appropriately meaningful treatment of the requirements in the Application Information Requirements (AIR) and has decided not to accept the application for detailed review.”
This doesn’t spell the end for the project, which was originally proposed by Xstrata before the two companies merged in 2013, but rather, a request for more information before re-submitting the Application.
“EAO recognizes the effort that Glencore has put into developing the application and responding to issues and concerns raised during the pre-application phase of the EA,” says the rejections letter, written by Project Assessment Manager David Grace. “Notably, Glencore provided First Nations and the working group an opportunity to provide comments on a draft Application which is an uncommon practice. However…there were some general areas of concern relating to missing water quality evaluations for underground workings and water quality modeling assumptions.”
In addition to this, writes Grace, there was a lack of detail related to mine planning, geotechnical information and geochemistry.
According to Glencore, Underground mining is not planned to start for five to seven years, and would not fall under the scope of the Mines Act Permit that they were seeking. “The permit for the underground mine component will be defined in an amendment once more information is known,” they wrote in a response to questions on February 17. However, notes Grace, while it is not uncommon for mines to undergo amendments to their EA Certificates during the life of a projects, for the purposes of the EA, “the scope of the proposed project does include the underground mine. As such, there should be a sufficient level of detail contained in the Application related to the underground mine in order to understand potential effects and be able to make a significance determination with respect to potential adverse effects.”
Glencore also has not determined if a tailings storage facility will be required. “The final design parameters for the waste rock stockpiles will be determined based on the outcomes of geotechnical investigation.”
This, says Grace, is not the way it works, and is inconsistent with common practice. “this information is central and critical for an effective and comprehensive EA review to determine the potential for significant adverse affects.”
Upon receipt of a revised application, there will be another screening period, writes Grace. “EAO will evaluate the Application against the AIR and will notify you by letter whether or not the Application has been accepted for formal review.”
Glencore is currently collecting additional information, and some of this information will be available in the next few months, but Glencore has not yet said when, or if, they would get the revised submission in.