Faro Mine: Proposed mitigation measures

A summary of the key anticipated effects of the Faro Mine Remediation Project on the people and the environment, and proposed mitigation measures

Table of contents

About this document

The Faro Mine Remediation Project team has been assessing the environmental and socio-economic effects of the proposed remediation activities and ways to increase positive effects and to reduce negative impacts (mitigation measures).

The following summary report outlines some of the key effects that are anticipated to result from the remediation project and the mitigation measures that may be proposed as part of the Faro Mine Remediation project.

This document is not intended to list all the proposed mitigation measures to be implemented during the remediation of the Faro Mine site. Rather, it focuses on the key measures that address the top concerns we have heard through public consultation sessions in the summer of 2017. The final project remediation plan will include more mitigation measures than those that are listed in this summary document.

Faro Mine Remediation Project status

The governments of Canada and Yukon have spent many years working with affected Yukon First Nations and local communities to look at the options and develop a plan to clean up the site.

This year, the Faro Mine Remediation Project team is preparing to submit a project proposal describing the planned remediation approach to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) for review.

We will be considering the comments and questions we receive during the current public consultation period to finalize the project proposal submission to YESAB.

Eleven themes: Socio-economic and environmental

This document is organized into 11 themes, outlining the key anticipated effects, the proposed mitigation measures and a preliminary assessment of what we currently know for each theme. These themes are based on feedback from public consultation sessions and are subjects that will be addressed in the project proposal to be submitted to YESAB.

  1. Water quality
  2. Surface water quantity
  3. Fish and fish habitat
  4. Wildlife
  5. Vegetation
  6. Cultural and heritage sites
  7. Economic opportunities
  8. Community wellness and human heath
  9. Traditional land use
  10. Air quality
  11. Noise

The most frequent and important themes that came from the consultation sessions were: water quality, fish and fish habitat, wildlife, economic opportunities and human health.

Background

The Faro Mine was once the largest open pit lead-zinc mine in the world. Today, it is the site of one of the biggest abandoned mine remediation projects in Canada.

It is located in south-central Yukon, near the town of Faro, within the asserted traditional territory of the Kaska Nation and upstream of the territory of Selkirk First Nation. The Faro Mine site is 25 sq. km, an area roughly the size of Victoria, British Columbia.

Processing the ore at the mine left behind 70 million tonnes of tailings and 320 million tonnes of waste rock, which drain metals and acids into the surrounding land and water. That's enough mining waste to cover 26,179 football fields, 1 metre deep.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) is leading the final design phase of the remediation plan. The Government of Canada is working closely with the Kaska Faro Secretariat, Selkirk First Nation and all stakeholders to advance the project.

Objectives of remediation

The remediation plan's objectives are to:

  • protect human health and safety
  • protect and, where reasonable, restore the environment including land, air, water, fish and wildlife
  • return the mine site, where reasonable, to an acceptable state of use that reflects pre-mining land use
  • maximize local and Yukon socio-economic benefits
  • manage long-term site risk in a cost-effective manner

The approach to remediation: "stabilize in place"

The "stabilize in place" approach, selected in 2009, includes:

  • Collect and treat contaminated water: The contaminated water management system will collect, store, transport and treat contaminated water. This system will help protect the downstream environment from contaminants found in surface and groundwater.
  • Divert clean water: The clean water system will ensure clean water is kept away from any contamination and will minimize the amount of contaminated water that needs to be treated by the contaminated water management system. This will involve diversions and ditches, and may also include some settling or polishing ponds.
  • Covers: Earth and rock covers will be placed across the site to keep ore, waste rock and tailings away from people and wildlife. The covers will also reduce how much water gets into the contaminated areas and be a place where new plant life can grow. Like diverting clean water, this will also decrease the amount of contaminated water that needs to be treated.
  • Adaptive management: Adaptive management means being flexible. The Faro Mine site is complex and experience shows that it is impossible to know all the problems that might come up. By monitoring the site, we can take action if unacceptable levels of contaminants are getting into the environment downstream.

Key anticipated effects and their proposed mitigation measures

Water Quality

What may happen during site remediation

  • Water quality is expected to improve over time from the current condition
  • Downstream water quality may be negatively affected by:
    • Contaminated groundwater that comes to the surface that is not captured by seepage interception systems
    • Construction activities that may cause contaminants from waste rock to move to other areas on the site and potentially end up in the creeks around the site (erosion and sedimentation)
    • Water that is released to the environment from the water treatment plant which may be of different water quality than the current downstream water quality

How we plan to minimize the negative effects

  • Treat water so that it is safe for the downstream environment
  • Build systems that will collect contaminated groundwater
  • Release treated water during ice-free months, when there is more water in Rose Creek
  • Build systems to capture contact water(surface water that comes into contact with mine waste rock, buildings, structures and / or roads) early in the project schedule
  • Develop and implement a sediment and erosion control plan to maintain surface water quality in creeks and streams around the site
  • Place a cover on waste rock and tailings that are most contaminated first, to ensure that the most risky areas are addressed at the beginning of the remediation
  • Continue to monitor water quality in Rose Creek to identify future groundwater contamination events quickly and to start treatment or capture systems if needed

What we know now

  • Without the Faro Mine Remediation Project, water quality will continue to degrade.
  • Building contact water systems and water treatment will slow and reverse ongoing negative effects on water quality over the long-term.
  • Some negative effects are expected to occur while these systems are being built.
  • The project will capture 95 to 99 percent of the contaminated groundwater.
  • The remaining 1 to 5 percent of the groundwater is predicted to come to surface in Rose Creek.
  • Additional seepage interception systems may be constructed in the future to capture new groundwater contamination sources that may surface in Rose Creek.
  • Treated water that will be released to Rose Creek is expected to be protective of aquatic life and the environment downstream of the mine

Surface water quantity

What may happen during site remediation

  • The operation of the water treatment plant may change the amount of surface water that flows on site and the amount of water that enters Rose Creek
  • Collection of contaminated groundwater and contact water(surface water that comes into contact with mine waste rock buildings, structures and roads) may reduce water flows (i.e. amount of water in the creeks) because water will need to be captured for treatment and will be stored in the Faro Pit during the winter seasons

How we plan to minimize the negative effects

  • Release water from the treatment plant only during ice-free months when there is more water in Rose Creek
  • Develop and implement a water management plan which explains the long-term water management approach
  • Develop a sediment and erosion control plan to minimize and control surface water runoff, soil erosion and sediments deposits
  • During construction of diversions, make sure that water can still flow from upstream to downstream

What we know now

  • The water treatment plant will discharge water into Rose Creek during the summer months. Overall, the annual loss of water quantity in the Rose Creek watershed is expected to be small downstream of the release location. However, there may be less water in the winter in Rose Creek because water will be stored in the Faro Pit over the winter that would normally flow into Rose Creek.
  • As long as water can still flow downstream from where we are extracting cover material (soils and rocks to cover waste rock) from borrow areas (areas we take earth and rock from) located in or near creeks and streams, the decrease in water flowing into Rose Creek downstream of the construction areas is expected to be small.

Fish and fish habitat

What may happen during site remediation

  • The natural environment (habitat) for fish and the number of fish will likely improve over time the project progresses, since contaminated water will be contained, treated, and then released as clean water back into the environment
  • Some fish habitat may be lost, mainly from reduced water flows, from stream modifications and diversions, and from construction activities.
  • Fish habitat and fish health in the creeks around the mine may be affected by the possible release of construction-related chemicals or run-off
  • Contaminated groundwater (water that may surface to Rose Creek) may negatively affect the number of fish and fish habitat

How we plan to minimize the negative effects

  • Design new fish habitat areas that will be equal or better in quality and quantity compared to the areas that are lost
  • Safely capture and move fish before work is started in fish-bearing streams
  • Avoid work in fish-bearing streams during sensitive time periods such as the spawning season for Arctic Grayling.
  • Develop a fish habitat offsetting plan and apply for a Fisheries Act authorization
  • Implement the water quality mitigation measures listed above, which will in turn protect fish habitat

What we know now

  • There is expected to be a loss of fish habitat during construction because fish are present in creeks and ponds near the mine.
  • With a fish habitat offsetting plan, there will likely be an increase in fish habitat once clean-up construction is finished. We have not yet confirmed where fish habitat will be developed
  • The quality of fish habitat will improve for Rose Creek once new diversions are in place.
  • Diversions will mean less contamination will enter Rose Creek
  • Local, short-term changes to fish and fish habitat may happen during construction.
  • Erosion caused by construction activities could degrade water quality which could also affect fish
  • Local effects to fish, fish health and fish habitat may happen in Rose Creek where contaminated groundwater comes in contact with surface water
  • Regular monitoring and inspection will confirm whether or not the diversions and other works are operating properly, and if water quality is improving

Wildlife

What may happen during site remediation

  • Re-growth of plant life (re-vegetation) at the Faro Mine is expected to create wildlife habitat over time
  • The remediation plan, over time, is expected to make most of the site safe for wildlife to cross and / or for wildlife to eat the vegetation that will grow
  • During the construction phase, there may be changes to how different animals interact with their natural environments (ecosystems). This combined with increased construction activity on site, is predicted to cause loss of wildlife habitat, cause wildlife to move, and possibly result in the death of some wildlife (from activities that come with construction, such as vehicle collisions from increased traffic).
  • During construction, wildlife may come in contact with dust that is contaminated with metals and / or contaminated water and / or food, which may negatively affect their health, survival and reproduction

How we plan to minimize the negative effects

  • Minimize or avoid wildlife deaths by avoiding land-clearing activities during the bird nesting period.
  • Avoid activities that could affect wildlife reproduction in sensitive habitats and / or during key time periods for sensitive species
  • Limit wildlife access to contaminated areas (plants or surface water)
  • Have rules in place at the mine that give wildlife the right-of-way and by posting and enforcing vehicle speed limits
  • Rules will be enforced by environmental staff on-site
  • Provide employees and contractors with mandatory training that includes: wildlife awareness, bear awareness and avoiding human-wildlife interactions
  • Prohibit wildlife harassment, approaching and feeding
  • Prohibit personal firearms and hunting at the mine site for all employees and contractors
  • As much as possible, create a diverse environment that can sustain a variety of plants
  • Restore ecosystems that provide wildlife habitat. Plant covered areas with native plants as much as possible
  • Monitor wildlife numbers and adjust the approach to wildlife management if problems are detected

What we know now

  • We will need to clear some of the existing ecosystems to extract soil and rocks for construction activities on the site
  • This will cause the loss of some wildlife habitat during the construction period
  • These areas will be re-vegetated
  • Once the project is completed, the quantity of wildlife habitat will depend on the project's success in covering the Faro mine waste rock piles and tailings areas
  • Successful remediation will result in more wildlife habitat than there is currently
  • There may potentially be some long-term loss of wildlife habitat in some areas if they cannot be restored for wildlife

Vegetation

What may happen during site remediation

  • Natural ecosystems on the Faro Mine site will be re-established over time by placing cover materials on waste rock dumps and tailings, and by planting new vegetation
  • During construction, some vegetation will be removed or changed, which may negatively affect a number of areas and plant ecosystems
  • Work on site may cause an increase in dust, which may increase heavy metal contamination in vegetation, and negatively affect plant health
  • Some areas may not be able to be re-vegetated successfully, making these areas and ecosystems unsuitable for certain plants or animals in the future

How we plan to minimize the negative effects

  • Minimize the clearing of vegetation as much as possible. Some solutions include:
    • using existing roads, trails and previously disturbed areas
    • minimizing the vegetation that is cleared
    • minimizing the size and areas that soils and rock are extracted from
    • minimizing the development of new access routes by using existing routes as much as possible
  • Plan the development and sequencing of soil removal areas, stockpiles and covers in a way that minimizes the amount of land and vegetation that is disturbed at any given time
  • Use the topsoil from stored soil piles to reduce the amount of topsoil required from other undisturbed areas of the site
  • When work is completed on an area, cover it with topsoil to help speed up the process of re-vegetation
  • Avoid clearing rare plant populations
  • During construction, scarify compacted soils and surfaces (i.e. put scratches in the soil and surfaces) to promote natural revegetation
  • Develop and use a dust management plan during construction

What we know now

  • Clearing native plant ecosystems for waste rock covers and for other project activities will result in the loss of those ecosystems until they can be reclaimed
  • Successful remediation of the waste rock dumps and tailing area will, over time, result in more plant habitat than is currently available.

Cultural and heritage sites

What may happen during site remediation

  • Excavation and testing within the project area, including earth removal, displacement, and / or compaction, may alter known and unknown heritage resources
  • Construction and movement on site may affect unknown archaeological sites that may be covered by existing land or buildings/structures

How we plan to minimize the negative effects

  • Develop and start using a heritage and resource management plan, including the following measures:
    • Where heritage resources may be affected, develop and initiate individual heritage resource mitigation plans
    • Where construction activities are scheduled, have a qualified professional review the activities to ensure heritage resource protections are in place
    • If previously unknown heritage resources are found during construction, activity will stop in the area while chance find protocols (i.e. sites that are stumbled upon while working) are followed.
    • If a heritage site is identified, a 30-metre disturbance-free buffer will be maintained to avoid impact to the resource
    • Inform the Heritage Resources Unit and First Nations of newly identified heritage resources, and of planned or accidental impacts to previously recorded heritage resources
    • Provide project staff and contractors with guidance in communicating, recording and managing currently unidentified heritage resources
    • When a new heritage site is discovered, flag the resource with a sign

What we know now

  • Depending on where excavation occurs, some heritage sites may be affected because they cannot be avoided.
  • Heritage Resources are carefully managed by the Yukon Government, and all guidance from the Yukon Government will be followed
  • In areas that are currently not disturbed, but that may be used for soil and rock as covers, heritage assessments will first be done to identify cultural and heritage sites

Economic opportunities

What may happen during site remediation

  • Contracting and procurement of project materials, goods, and services during construction may increase local and regional business revenues and opportunities
  • Project workforce, hiring, and procurement may provide training and employment opportunities and result in changes and increases to local income levels

How we plan to minimize the negative effects

  • Develop and implement a project training, employment, contracting and procurement strategy to achieve the project objectives
  • These objectives include encouraging local and affected First Nation community benefits and building local capacity that considers the needs of the local workforce
  • Help to develop a local First Nation workforce by including provisions for flexible work schedules, on-the-job training and leave to participate in community / cultural events and traditional economy
  • Continue to engage with affected First Nations and communities to develop a better understanding and ability to maximize local employment opportunities and economic benefits
  • Collaborate with the Town of Faro to develop options for workforce accommodation that meet the needs of the community and the project
  • Encourage the use of existing Faro commercial real estate for project-related offices

What we know now

  • Economic opportunities are expected to have generally positive effects on affected communities. This may include increased job opportunities and increased incomes
  • The areas and size of the anticipated economic opportunities will be identified in the socio-economic assessment

Community wellness and human health

What may happen during site remediation

  • Job creation and new money going into the local economy as a result of the project can change the balance and structure of the communities and families, and affect traditional and cultural values.
  • A workforce that stays in the area for only short periods of time will become part of local and First Nation communities
  • This may affect community and family relationships and connections, affect housing demand / affordability, demand for local community services and road use.

How we plan to minimize the negative effects

  • Develop and start using a pre-construction communications plan to raise public awareness in affected communities of the potential project opportunities and effects
  • Support local and public participation in project activities through ongoing consultation and engagement sessions
  • To address the potential effects on the communities, construct an on-site camp to minimize interactions between workforce from outside the local area and local resident populations
  • Work with local authorities to support a pro-active increase in local services (e.g., health services, policing, emergency) and to improve local infrastructure to accommodate an increase in the use of these services as a result of the expected increase in population
  • Develop and start using project transportation services for workforce to and from affected communities to minimize traffic and improve safety
  • Provide enhanced work-site health testing to create a project workers health program
  • Implement mitigation measures to minimize or avoid affecting air quality and water quality which will also minimize effects to human health

What we know now

  • The socio-economic assessment will examine community well-being in local and First Nations communities closest to the project.
  • The project is expected to result in a combination of positive and negative effects on community wellness
  • Job creation and economic opportunities can increase the wealth of the community
  • Potential negative effects include a change in community demographics, with some pressure on community infrastructure and services
  • Increased incomes may also have negative influences on social cohesion if shift work is required, with a potential reduction in traditional practices
  • The project is being developed to protect human health. A 2010 risk assessment concluded that the Faro Mine site was not a risk to human health
  • An updated risk assessment is currently being completed for the project

Traditional land use

What may happen during site remediation

  • Access to local and traditional land use areas could be affected by project activities, particularly during construction, for safety reasons

How we plan to minimize the negative effects

  • Continue to encourage an ongoing and open dialogue with local and traditional land users
  • Jointly (with Government of Yukon and First Nation Governments) develop and start using a plan to manage access to local and traditional land use affected by project activities
  • Implement mitigation measures described for water, fish, vegetation, wildlife, noise and air to limit effects on resources used for local and traditional land use
  • Offer compensation to affected cabin owner(s)
  • Develop and implement a Heritage Resource Management Plan

What we know now

  • During construction, there may be a negative effect on access to and near the site for safety reasons
  • At the same time, the project may result in increased competition for country food with more people in the area
  • We will continue consultation with the affected First Nations to find out if there are concerns over the use of traditional lands in the area of the Faro Mine site
  • If concerns exist, jointly work on steps that can be put in place to minimize the effects on traditional land use.

Air quality

What may happen during site remediation

  • Construction activities will result in an increase in air contaminants (e.g. dust) and greenhouse gases from fuel combustion and heavy equipment operations
  • This could result in a decrease in air quality and more dust deposited on surrounding vegetation
  • When the tailings areas are covered, wind-blown dust is expected to decrease

How we plan to minimize the negative effects

  • Develop and implement plans for:
    • dust management
    • air quality
    • meteorological monitoring
    • materials management
    • borrow management
    • adaptive management
  • These plans will include the following measures:
    • Enforce speed limits of 50 km/h throughout the project area on roads controlled by the site contractor
    • Design the worker camp to keep the dust from the construction activities out of the camp
    • Use covers where possible (for example, cover trucks used for transporting materials)
    • Wash vehicles and machinery as needed to reduce dust loads
    • Use equipment and heavy mobile equipment which comply with relevant exhaust emission standards
    • Maintain equipment and vehicles to the manufacturer's specifications

What we know now

  • There will be an increase in dust deposition to the surrounding area during construction activities
  • Dust will decrease once construction activities are completed
  • Once the construction is complete, dust is expected to be less than what it is now
  • There will be an increase in the greenhouse gas emissions released during construction
  • The greenhouse gas emissions will be calculated
  • Greenhouse gases resulting from the project are not likely to have a measurable effect on climate change and will decrease once construction is complete

Noise

What may happen during site remediation

  • Noise levels during construction from heavy equipment and other sources will increase the noise heard by people outside of the mine area

How we plan to minimize the negative effects

  • Have rules or policies at the site that ensure all internal combustion engines are fitted with muffler systems and are well-maintained and that minimize the use of engine brakes and extended periods of engine idling
  • Where possible, place stationary noise-generating equipment behind on-site buildings to block noise in the direction of the nearest sites where people or wildlife may be
  • Design the worker camp such that indoor noise levels are at an acceptable level to avoid or reduce possibly disturbing workers' sleep
  • Place outdoor amenity areas for the worker camp in areas that use camp buildings to block noise

What we know now

  • Noise levels around the Faro Mine are expected to increase during construction activities. These will be minimized by using the mitigation measures above
  • Once construction is finished, noise levels are expected to be less than what they are now

Contact

Faro Mine Remediation Project
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
415C-300 Main St
Whitehorse, YT Y1A 2B5
email: aadnc.faromine.aandc@canada.ca
1-800-661-0451
Faromine.ca

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