Environmental review ignored for mine planning thanks to Canada’s ‘diversity map’

Last Wednesday, Mining Minister Bill Mauro announced the approval of new projects in the province of Ontario, including a nickel mining project in the Lower Grey River area of Northern Ontario.

While that is newsworthy on its own, it also raised a question: Was Mauro’s approval of the sulfide ore-processing project — which officials believe could move into production in 2023, according to copper research company UBCIC — based on a problematic map, known as the “diversity map,” that is the creation of Ontario’s provincial Natural Resources Ministry?

A spokesman for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Jeremy Jones, said officials have said in the past that the map is accurate.

The Nordik polymetallic sulfide project

Patrick Moorer, a spokesman for Nordik Mine Management, which has been working on the project, told Washington Post that the “diversity map” first became public in 2001, and the corporation updated it with more information in 2003. He said the map is used by a variety of organizations, including the Ministry of Natural Resources, to determine whether environmental impact studies or approvals are necessary. He said the company does not have access to or a copy of the document before a project is approved.

According to the Nordik Mine website, the project site is on Martinborough Nation land. A spokeswoman for the company said that the corporation has been working to work with the band and they believe the project is in compliance with all environmental standards. The band has asked that the ministry halt the project and conduct a more thorough review of the project’s environmental impact.

“The mine is in all respects subject to environmental approval and approvals by the province,” said Nece Briscoe, the spokeswoman for Nordik Mine Management. “We hope that people recognize that this is a long and environmentally responsible process that includes full and transparent disclosure of all material information that is necessary for everyone to view with an open mind.”

According to Bill Mauro’s news release, Nordik Metals Inc. has “committed to fully engage with the Martinborough Nation during the regulatory approval process.” When asked by The Washington Post whether the ministry is monitoring efforts to engage in a discussion with the native people of Martinborough Nation, Jones said, “These processes are handled through government organizations.”

Mike Baard, a spokesman for Martinborough Nation, said that his organization was unaware of the new project approval and he was unsure of any effort to engage with the company. “We are unaware of anything of this nature at this time,” he said.

The Dynamite Rare Earth Uranium Prolong (DURA) project

On Wednesday, November 14, Quebec’s Minister of Natural Resources, Michelle Courchesne, said in a news release that the federal government had approved a proposal to mine rare earth minerals in the Chaudière-Appalaches region of Ontario. According to Courchesne, the decision was based on a report “in its totality” from Canadian environmental and aboriginal agency Quebec’s Environment and Economy ministry.

While mining minister Mauro did not state the new plans for that project, Courchesne also announced that the Canadian government had approved a proposal to mine rare earth minerals in the Chaudière-Appalaches region of Ontario. According to Courchesne, the Canadian government approved a proposal for the Dynamite Rare Earth Uranium Prolong (DURA) project based on a report “in its totality” from Quebec’s Environment and Economy ministry.

READ MORE: Hunt for rare earth elements takes a strike of bad luck and China’s exclusive dominance

For Charles Marinelli, a lawyer for Alliance Tupperware, it is good to know that this material can be extracted. He said he thinks the company should continue with the process to build a plant, noting that only one project has been approved to mine rare earth elements in Canada in the last 20 years.

In his opinion, Marinelli said the approval of the project shouldn’t be that surprising, given that people are still coming to understand the value of this source of minerals.

“There’s probably not a company in the world that hasn’t been working on finding something that could be done with it,” he said.

He added, “It shouldn’t surprise anybody that a government, given the situation, would be willing to say, ‘We’re still open to that,�

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