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Caribou challenges Marathon Palladium Project

Mayor Rick Dumas is hopeful that Minister will give the go-ahead to build the Palladium mine near Marathon, but environmental concerns might be in the way.

MARATHON – Critical mining is slowly becoming relevant in the region once again as several critical mineral projects will soon boost the Northwest economy.

However, before any work can be done, extensive environmental studies need to be performed first to see if these mines will create an unnecessary environmental impact on the surrounding territory.

A recent report from a joint review panel for the Palladium project shows that environmental impact is low around the selected site; however, the project might affect the local caribou population.

“GenPGM reported the Primary project effect on caribou would be the reduced connectivity with the Lake Superior Coastal Range and adjacent ranges. Other potential effects include the loss of potential habitat from the clearing of the Site Study Area and sensory disturbances,” the report claims.

The report also states that GenPGM doesn’t consider there to be any significant environmental effects on caribou, but “government agencies stated that the Proponent may have underestimated the effects.”

Marathon Mayor Rick Dumas said that with any project there is going to be an environmental effect, however, the trick is to ensure that those risks are mitigated.

“In this case, one of the big ones is the caribou. The caribou on the coastal range, as well as, the northern woodland Boral caribou range, the Ministry is trying to identify the impact it (Site Study Area) might have. I’ve met with the Minister reps over the last year through NOMA to discuss the Lake Superior Coastal Range,” Dumas begins.

Dumas goes on to explain that the Lake Superior Coastal Range stretches from Wawa to Terrace Bay.

Dumas continues, “I’ve been living in Marathon all my life. I grew up here in Marathon and Huron Bay. I had a camp in the woods. I’ve been in the wood fishing and hunting with friends. I spent a lot of time in the woods. I’ve seen any animal that is present in Northwestern Ontario many, many times over. We are talking Moose, Bear, Beaver, you know, porcupine, you name it, we have it, we’ve seen it. We have all seen it in our communities. I have never in my entire life seen a caribou.”

Dumas has asked the Ministry for the location of the caribou habitat. The caribou population seems to be located on Michipicoten Island near Wawa, as well as, Slate Island outside of Terrace Bay, which Dumas states that these Islands are “offshore and not a part of the Coastal Range.”

In the Joint Review Panel report, it states, “The Proponent (GenPGM) presented mitigation and offsetting measures intended to reduce the effects of the Project on caribou, although government agencies generally believe that these actions would not be sufficient to offset the effects of the Project on caribou, especially with regard to habitat connectivity.”

However, Dumas is not convinced about the government agencies’ findings.

“My argument is the same, it has it’s been all along. Prove to me there are caribou in my backyard that is going to be impacted by the development of the mine and I will definitely support that. I have yet to date seen the proof of that and the movement that will have on the movement of caribou,” stated Dumas.

So far, Dumas states he has yet to see such evidence.

To read the Joint Review Panel's report, an executive summary, as well as information about the environmental assessment, they are available on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry (Registry reference number 54755).

Clint Fleury

About the Author: Clint Fleury

Clint Fleury is a web reporter covering Northwestern Ontario and the Superior North regions.
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