ARCHIVED — Vol. 146, No. 51 — December 22, 2012

Proclamation Exempting the Mink Arm Portion of South McMahon Lake, Located in Saskatchewan, from the Operation of Section 22 of the Navigable Waters Protection Act

Statutory authority

Navigable Waters Protection Act

Sponsoring department

Department of Transport

REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT

Background

The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) protects the public right of navigation. It ensures that works constructed in navigable waterways are reviewed and regulated to minimize the overall impact on navigation.

The NWPA also prohibits the dumping of materials into any navigable waterway, unless it is shown to the satisfaction of the Governor in Council that the public interest would not be injuriously affected by that activity.

Since 1968, mining-related activities have been on-going at the current site of the Midwest Uranium Mining and Milling Project (Midwest Project), which is located near the eastern margin of the Athabasca Basin in northern Saskatchewan, approximately 700 km north of Saskatoon and 350 km north of the town of La Ronge. Project proposals have been reviewed and consulted on in the local communities by various proponents, joint panels and government agencies over the years.

In 1968, in order to facilitate the safe development of a test mine, a portion of the Mink Arm of South McMahon Lake had to be dewatered. In order to accomplish this, a dam was constructed at the time.

AREVA Resources Canada Inc (AREVA) is now the majority owner, operator and proponent for the Midwest Project. The Midwest Project involves the development of a new uranium mine at its Midwest site and the transport of the mined ore for milling at their McClean Lake operation in northern Saskatchewan. Specifically, the development proposal consists of the mining and milling of a uranium deposit, including mining uranium ore at the Midwest development by open pit mining methods, which involves utilizing the existing Mink Arm dam, with some modifications and the dewatering of 52 hectares of the Mink Arm of South McMahon Lake; hauling ore along a road linking the Midwest development with the existing McClean Lake Operation; and milling uranium ore. The Midwest ore body lies approximately 200 m below the Mink Arm of South McMahon Lake.

The scope of the Midwest Project includes the physical works and activities associated with the construction, operation and decommissioning of the following project components:

  • the deposit of materials and subsequent dewatering of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake;
  • the Midwest open pit mine, including associated infrastructure;
  • waste rock management facilities located at the Midwest site;
  • the transportation and utility corridor, to be utilized as a dedicated haul road;
  • the waste water management system that is proposed for treating and transporting waste water from the Midwest Project to the effluent management system at the McClean Lake Operation;
  • modifications at the mill to facilitate milling Midwest ore; and
  • all physical works and undertakings associated with the fish habitat compensation plan.

Issues

Section 22 of the NWPA prohibits the dumping of materials into any navigable waterway unless it is shown to the satisfaction of the Governor in Council that the public interest would not be injuriously affected by that activity, which is subsequently authorized by proclamation.

In this instance, a proclamation is required in order to proceed with certain aspects of the Midwest Project at this time. The proclamation would proclaim the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake exempt from the application of section 22 of the NWPA. This would allow for the deposit of waste mining material in the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake and for the dewatering of Mink Arm, including the installation of a dewatering well ring around the proposed open mining pit by AREVA.

Objectives

The purpose of this proposal is to have the waters of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake declared, by proclamation, exempt from the application of section 22 of the NWPA. Once a proclamation is issued, AREVA would be authorized to proceed with certain aspects of the Midwest Project. Specifically, this would include the deposit of waste mining materials and the subsequent dewatering of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake.

The purpose of the Midwest Project is to mine the Midwest ore body and to produce a uranium concentrate, which is commonly referred to as yellowcake. The Midwest Project is needed to add to the ore reserves available for processing at the McClean Lake Operation and thereby add to the positive economic, employment and business opportunities related to uranium developments in northern Saskatchewan. From a broad perspective, world uranium production currently falls far short of projected future demands. Uranium from the Midwest Project will help meet the future needs for nuclear power and assist in reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale.

As well, this mining project will have significant positive economic impacts for local residents and for all Canadians and will generate jobs and long-term benefits for the entire region.

Description

In accordance with section 23 of the NWPA, this proposal would proclaim the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake exempt from the application of section 22 of the NWPA.

Specifically, an Order in Council, pursuant to section 23 of the NWPA, would direct that a proclamation be issued declaring that the waters of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake, located in Saskatchewan, be exempted from the operation of section 22 of the NWPA with respect to the depositing of materials by AREVA.

Benefits and costs

As previously indicated, AREVA is the majority owner and operator of the Midwest Project. AREVA is also the majority owner and operator of the McClean Lake Operation, a uranium mine and mill facility located approximately 17 km east of the Midwest Project. Both the Midwest Project and the McClean Lake Operation lie within the eastern margin of a region in northern Saskatchewan known as the Athabasca Basin.

AREVA is planning on extending mining activities at the McClean Lake Operation to include the Midwest Project. Due to the proximity of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake to the extended mining activities and related operations, for safety reasons the installation of a dewatering well ring around the proposed open pit will be undertaken to lower the water level and maintain a safe, dry site. As well, mining activities would also include the deposit of materials and subsequent dewatering of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake.

The scope of the Midwest Project includes the physical works and activities associated with the construction, operation and decommissioning of the identified project components.

AREVA was informed that the Midwest Project would require an environmental assessment under both the Environmental Assessment Act of Saskatchewan and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). As a result, AREVA conducted a full environmental assessment in accordance with the previous CEAA and prepared an Environmental Impact Statement for technical and public review.

The assessment of significance of effects of the Midwest Project, in conjunction with the cumulative assessment, determined that the effects of the Midwest Project were not significant. Furthermore, these individual determinations, when considered together, support the conclusion that taking into account the implementation of any available mitigation measures, the Midwest Project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.

As previously indicated, activity has been ongoing at the Midwest site since 1968. A “surface lease” has been in place since 1987, and a locked gate intended to restrict access to the Midwest site has been in place for over 20 years. Parties interested in accessing the Midwest site for any purpose must contact personnel at AREVA’s McClean Lake Operation for access. No records or evidence indicate there to be any concerns regarding the loss of navigability on the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake. As well, AREVA has no records of requests to access the site for the purposes of navigation (either commercial or recreational). As a result, no social impacts have been identified.

Previous activities such as the construction of the dam, dewatering, test mining, and natural re-flooding have had minimal influence or effects on Mink Arm. The proposed dewatering takes into consideration experience gained from previous dewatering activities.

Prior to commencement of dewatering activities, a fish removal and/or transfer program will be undertaken to capture and transfer fish from Mink Arm to South McMahon Lake. In order for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to fulfill its obligations and make a significance determination on the Midwest Project Environmental Impact Statement, a Fish Habitat Compensation Plan has been developed for the 52 hectares of habitat to be lost with the dewatering of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake proposed to be dewatered.

With respect to potentially adverse impacts associated with this proposal, the operational focus is minimizing waste production, and having in place appropriate waste management facilities and systems, and effective mitigation measures, if and as may be determined to be required.

Further to the detailed review and analysis of the project undertaken by Transport Canada (TC), TC determined that filling in the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake would be acceptable given the low potential of using these waters for navigation.

As is the case with the McClean Lake Operation, the Midwest Project will have significant positive economic impacts for local residents and for all Canadians, and will generate jobs and long-term benefits for the entire region. Local and regional labour, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, will have the chance to contribute to the Midwest Project. As part of the Environmental Impact Statement process undertaken in accordance with the previous CEAA, commitments to using local, regional and Saskatchewan suppliers, to hiring northern contractors, and to creating opportunities for northern businesses have been made, thus ensuring further economic benefits for local residents.

Consultation

Over the years, proponents have met with various northern communities to provide information on the Midwest Project, including community leaders of Wollaston Lake, Black Lake, Stony Rapids, Fond-du-Lac, Uranium City and Camsell Portage. On-going contact was made with these communities by AREVA, which continued during the delivery of the Environmental Impact Statement developed in accordance with the previous CEAA and following completion of activities, including tours of the site during test mining.

To date, there are no previous records, nor does AREVA have any records or evidence to indicate that there are, or will be, any concerns regarding the loss of navigability of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake.

Overall, there has been little feedback or discussion related to the proposal to declare the waters of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake, located in Saskatchewan, exempt from the operation of section 22 of the NWPA with respect to the depositing of materials by AREVA and the subsequent dewatering of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake.

“One-for-One” Rule

The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply to this proposal.

Small business lens

The small business lens does not apply to this proposal.

Rationale

As a result of a detailed review and analysis of this proposal, TC is of the view that the public interest would not be injuriously affected by the deposit of materials into the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake.

Transport Canada has determined that the filling in and subsequent dewatering of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake would be acceptable given the low potential of using these waters for navigation.

The assessment of significance of effects of the Midwest Project, in conjunction with the cumulative assessment, determined that the effects of the Midwest Project were not significant.

As previously indicated, there are no records or evidence to indicate that there are, or will be, any concerns regarding the lost of navigability of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake. Overall, there has been little feedback or discussion related to this proposal.

The potential impacts on navigation of depositing waste mining material in the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake, including the dewatering of Mink Arm, were evaluated pursuant to the NWPA during the analysis and consultation phases of the Midwest Project as a whole. As previously indicated, it was determined that the potential of using the water body for navigation is low.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards

The Order in Council would, by proclamation, declare the waters of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake exempt from the operation of section 22 of the NWPA; therefore, it would be “removing the right to public navigation.” In this instance, there would be no additional regulatory requirements under the NWPA and no future regulatory requirements for these waters under the Navigable Waters Protection Program and the NWPA.

Contact

Tia M. McEwan
Manager, Regulatory Affairs (AMSXR)
Legislative, Regulatory and International Affairs
Marine Safety and Security
Transport Canada
Place de Ville, Tower C, 11th Floor
330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N5
Telephone: 613-998-5352
Fax: 613-991-5670
Email: tia.mcewan@tc.gc.ca

PROPOSED REGULATORY TEXT

Notice is given that the Governor in Council, pursuant to section 23 of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, proposes to direct that a proclamation be issued declaring that the waters of the Mink Arm portion of South McMahon Lake, located in Saskatchewan, be exempt from the operation of section 22 of that Act with respect to the depositing of waste rock by AREVA Resources Canada Inc.

Interested persons may make representations concerning the proposed proclamation within 30 days after the date of publication of this notice. All such representations must cite the Canada Gazette, Part Ⅰ, and the date of publication of this notice, and be sent to Tia M. McEwan, Manager, Regulatory Affairs, Marine Safety, Transport Canada, Place de Ville, Tower C, 330 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N5 (tel.: 613-998-5352; fax: 613-991-5670; email: tia.mcewan@tc.gc.ca).

Ottawa, December 13, 2012

JURICA ČAPKUN
Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council

[51-1-o]