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Canadian govt approves the enviro assessment of Generation PGM’s Marathon mine

1st December 2022

By: Donna Slater

Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

     

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The Canadian government has approved the environmental assessment of TSX-listed Generation PGM’s Marathon palladium/copper project.

Generation will now proceed with obtaining any additional authorisations and permits from federal departments, including an approval from Fisheries and Oceans Canada under the Fisheries Act; from Natural Resources Canada under the Explosives Act; and from Environment and Climate Change Canada under the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations.

The Marathon project is located 10 km from Marathon, Ontario, Canada, and lies along the shores of the Biigtig Zibi (Pic River), 9 km north of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg’s reserve.

This project is set to strengthen Canada’s position as a major roleplayer in the responsible and sustainable production of critical minerals, consistent with the government of Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy.

Platinum group metals – including palladium, platinum and rhodium – are essential metals in the manufacturing of automotive catalytic convertors, which reduce harmful vehicle emissions.

Copper, which will also be produced at Marathon, is a critical mineral for electric vehicles and associated charging infrastructure, as well as for the growth of renewable energy infrastructure.

“The minerals mined through this project, mainly palladium and copper, will play an important role in Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy,” says Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault, who is also responsible for the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.

“This is a great day for Generation’s shareholders and critical minerals production in Canada. These government decisions validate the work done to date to develop the Marathon project as a sustainable, environmentally sensitive, low-cost producer of critical metals that are needed to support emissions controls and the transition to a greener economy.

“The receipt of the Decision Statement and Approval Order, respectively, are significant milestones as we advance the Marathon project into production. This provides much needed certainty about the future and development of this strategic asset,” comments Generation president and CEO Jamie Levy.

The Marathon project will entail the construction, operation, decommissioning and remediation of three openpits to produce copper concentrate, consisting primarily of copper, palladium and platinum, and critical minerals; an on-site ore processing facility; a 115 kV transmission line; an access road; a mine rock storage area; a process solids management facility; and a water management system, besides other infrastructure.

The processing plant will operate at about 9.2-million tonnes a year of ore to produce about 87 000 t/y of copper concentrate. The concentrate will be delivered to a third-party facility for further downstream processing into refined critical minerals.

Based on current mineral reserves, over its planned 13-year mine life, the Marathon project concentrate is expected to deliver 1.91-million ounces of palladium, 467-million pounds of copper, 537 000 oz of platinum, 151 000 oz of gold and 2.82-million ounces of silver in payable metals.

Guilbeault adds that approving the Marathon project will also result in important benefits for members of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, who have provided their support and view the project and the review process as an opportunity to advance reconciliation.

The Marathon project represents significant economic opportunities for Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and will help improve the economic prosperity of the region, with expectations that 430 to 550 full-time jobs will be created during the construction phase and 430 jobs when the project is in operation.

The proponent has committed to hiring 25% of the project workforce (about 100 workers) from within Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and to exclusive contracting opportunities with Biigtigong Nishnaabeg-owned and -operated companies.

The decision statement issued by Guilbeault sets out 269 legally-binding conditions to protect the environment, including mitigation measures and follow-up programme requirements.

As such, Generation PGM must comply with these conditions throughout the life of the project, including to implement measures to address adverse effects of the project on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by indigenous peoples, physical and cultural heritage and the health and socio-economic conditions of indigenous peoples.

The conditions also include protections for fish and their habitat, migratory birds and species at risk, such as woodland caribou.

Numerous other conditions include clear requirements to consult Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, including some that reference the need to seek consensus. This includes, for example, plans to divert the water discharge away from the Biigtig Zibi, if technically and economically feasible, which is a culturally significant waterway for local indigenous peoples.

Biigtigong Nishnaabeg chief Duncan Michano says the community and the Crown worked to build a collaborative relationship throughout the environmental assessment for the project.

“The project is on the exclusive Aboriginal title territory of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and, since the community is the most highly impacted by the proposed project, the Crown needed to provide Biigtigong Nishnaabeg with support and resources that would accommodate for impacts and enable the community to benefit from the project.”

He adds that the Crown recognised and respected Biigtigong Nishnaabeg’s requirement for a consensus-based process, and that the Biigtigong Nishnaabeg believes a new precedent has been set for how the government can and should work with First Nations on a nation-to-nation basis in decision-making.

“The approval of the Marathon mine is a huge step forward for the economy of our region. Marathon and the First Nations rightsholders worked hard to ensure this project could build the economy of northern Ontario and protect our environment,” says Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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