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Feds to review Kinross’ Great Bear gold project

Federal Impact Assessment Agency launching environmental assessment of Red Lake pit plans
Great Bear Project, south of Red Lake (Kinross Gold photo)

One of Red Lake’s next generation of gold mines is undergoing federal scrutiny.

In a March 22 notification, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) has determined that a federal impact assessment of Kinross Gold’s Great Bear Project is warranted.

The agency said its opinion is based on a review of the detailed project description for the mine project and the comments received from Indigenous communities, federal authorities, provincial ministries and the public.

Kinross proposes to build an open-pit mine, 23 kilometres southeast of Red Lake, not far off Highway 105. The Toronto-headquartered gold miner finalized its acquisition of the very promising gold project in February 2022. 

According to the company’s filed project summary, there would be three pits mined over an estimated 20-year operating life. The mine would be capable of producing up to 60,000 tonnes of ore per day. The on-site mill would handle up to 15,000 tonnes of ore a day.

The project has an initial resource of 2.7 million ounces of indicated gold and 2.3 million ounces in the inferred category. An intensive exploration drill program is underway to add more ounces to the resource base.

At the same time, the company is also performing its own environmental baseline study of the property.

Tentatively, Kinross is looking at a 2029 start of gold production.

Some of the public comments on the mine project compiled by the agency last fall varied in degrees of concern from outright opposition to a mine to those wanting more details on Kinross’ mitigation measures to safeguard wildlife and the aquatic environment. 

Some individuals, landowners, environmental and conservation groups felt a mine would impact the provincially endangered Little Brown Myotis and Tricolored bat species, endanger a wolverine population, impact air quality, and have negative impacts on local Indigenous communities’ ability to hunt, gather and trap on their traditional lands.

IAAC said it can weigh in on those matters based on federal jurisdiction in areas of fish and fish habitat, migratory birds, and Indigenous peoples. As a result, the agency said, an impact assessment is in order.

According to IAAC’s website, the agency is almost 60 days into what will be a 180-day process leading up to a final decision and compliance orders being sent out to the company. Kinross will have to provide IAAC with a response and a plan on how it plans to address these issues.

Great Bear is located in an area of northwestern Ontario where there's been some opposition to the pace of claim-staking, exploration and mine development by a handful of communities in the Land Defence Alliance. As well, Cat Lake First Nation is in a legal squabble with First Mining Gold over consultation issues regarding a mine project access road.