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Voisey's Bay Mine and Mill Environmental Assessment Panel Report

18 Recommendations

Recommendation 1

The Panel recommends that the Voisey's Bay Mine and Mill Project be authorized to proceed, subject to the terms and conditions identified in the rest of the Panel's recommendations.

Recommendation 2

The Panel recommends that the Province and VBNC negotiate a mining lease that promotes the attainment of durable and equitable social and economic benefits to the people of Labrador and of the Province through resource stewardship. The following conditions should be attached to that lease:

  • VBNC must proceed as soon as possible with an underground exploration program and, if reserves are proven, commit to early development to blend underground output with the late stages of open pit production; and
  • if initial underground exploration does not confirm current reserve projections, VBNC must extend the life of the open pit by reducing the annual production rate to ensure that the Project can continue to operate for at least 20 to 25 years.

Recommendation 3

The Panel recommends that Canada and the Province conclude and ratify land claims agreements in principle with the Inuit of Labrador, represented by LIA, and with the Innu of Labrador, represented by the Innu Nation, before issuing any project authorizations. The agreements in principle should include binding and enforceable interim measures for co-management to provide a bridge between the end of this environmental assessment and the full operation of the co-management elements of the agreements. This will require Canada and the Province to amend their approaches to claims negotiations to ensure that the required interim measures are put in place as an integral part of an agreement in principle.

Failing that, the Panel recommends that, before issuing any project authorizations, Canada and the Province negotiate equivalent alternative measures with LIA and the Innu Nation, as outlined in Chapter 17. Such measures must provide for Inuit and Innu participation, consultation and compensation in respect of the Project, in keeping with the fiduciary obligations of Canada and the Province.

Recommendation 4

The Panel recommends that, whichever option in Recommendation 3 is adopted, as long as the arrangements are legally binding and enforceable, conditional authorization be given that would provide VBNC with satisfactory assurance to plan the Project and apply for permits while negotiations continue. This would allow both processes to occur concurrently rather than consecutively. However, actual construction should not be authorized to proceed until the conditions of Recommendation 3 have been fulfilled.

Recommendation 5

The Panel recommends that Canada and the Province issue no Project authorizations until LIA and the Innu Nation have each concluded Impact Benefit Agreements (IBAs) with VBNC. Whether these occur inside or outside the context of a settled land claims agreement, IBA negotiations should be concluded within an agreed time frame, or, if necessary, the Minister authorizing the Project should impose a time frame. The negotiating framework should also include provision for dispute resolution, including the use of compulsory arbitration if required.

Recommendation 6

The Panel recommends that VBNC, as part of its environmental protection plan, do the following.

  • VBNC should develop a dust management plan that incorporates best management practices derived from other mining and related operations, to minimize the creation and mobilization of dust. This plan should include preventive measures, such as appropriate speed limits for truck traffic on haul roads and dust suppression techniques.
  • VBNC should develop a comprehensive energy conservation program, to prevent air pollution effects by reducing the combustion of fossil fuels. The program should include an energy review of the planned Project design before construction starts.

Recommendation 7

The Panel recommends that VBNC

  • ensure the final design of all dams includes provision for the worst possible seismic event;
  • evaluate best environmental management practices in Canada and elsewhere for dam design and construction in order to identify provisions for seepage collection and treatment; and
  • prepare and implement a dam safety inspection and maintenance program for all Project phases.

Recommendation 8

The Panel recommends that, before deciding to commission the North Tailings Basin, VBNC should evaluate the potential for using the mined-out Ovoid as a disposal site for either tailings or waste rock. It should also investigate, when adequate samples are available, the adequacy of both acid-generating waste rock and tailings as underground backfill material. During this environmental evaluation, the company should consider the best currently available technology for disposing of tailings and the results of the harlequin duck monitoring program (see Recommendation 65). This evaluation should be subject to review and recommendations by the proposed Environmental Advisory Board.

Recommendation 9

The Panel recommends that VBNC

  • prepare and implement a program, which can be carried out throughout the life of the Project, to verify and monitor open pit and underground waste rock that is disposed of on the surface;
  • develop procedures to segregate all waste that originates from potentially acid-generating zones but is sorted as non acid-generating, and to assign this waste to a specific dump site so that the company can take mitigative measures if monitoring reveals a problem;
  • outline contingency plans for dealing with reactive material encountered in the non-mineralized piles, particularly for managing runoff; and
  • ensure that the waste handling system designed for the underground operation allows separate handling and disposal of acid-generating material.

Recommendation 10

The Panel recommends that VBNC further develop its water recycling plans, in consultation with Environment Canada, incorporating

  • procedures to maximize the volume of recycled water of acceptable quality, taking into account factors that could limit the use of recycled water in the mill process; and
  • contingency plans to deal with potential requirements for additional raw water withdrawals and wastewater treatment.

Recommendation 11

The Panel recommends that VBNC integrate into its environmental protection plan, in consultation with Environment Canada,

  • pollution prevention procedures that apply the best management practices for minimizing thiosalt production;
  • pollution prevention procedures that reconcile pH levels and ammonia concentrations in ponds and effluents, taking into account the potential accumulation of ammonia under ice; and
  • a sludge management plan that takes into account alternative sludge disposal options, the long-term potential for metal dissolution from sludge co-disposed with tailings, and the implications of mill shutdowns and decommissioning.

Recommendation 12

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop a long-term management and rehabilitation plan for the open pit. The plan should be subject to review and recommendations by the Environmental Advisory Board, and should include

  • ongoing modelling and laboratory testing of evolving water quality in the flooded pit, of discharge rates and of the type and length of treatment required;
  • a strategy to reduce the time that the open pit walls will be exposed before the pit is flooded, developed by evaluating best environmental management practices; and
  • measures to reclaim the surrounding area to promote wildlife safety and the development of appropriate shoreline habitat.

Recommendation 13

The Panel recommends that VBNC establish monitoring wells between the open pit and Reid Brook, and develop suitable threshold levels for contaminants and a contingency plan to take corrective action if contaminants are found in groundwater flowing towards Reid Brook.

Recommendation 14

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop an appropriate effects monitoring program for metals and other contaminants, in cooperation with DFO, Environment Canada, LIA and the Innu Nation. The program should include a protocol for interpreting results and for taking remedial action. The program should be in place before construction starts and should be subject to ongoing modification, as appropriate.

Recommendation 15

The Panel recommends that a program be established to monitor contaminant levels in country foods on a continuing basis in northern Labrador. This general program should be a cooperative one involving primarily governments, LIA, and Innu Nation, although VBNC should contribute some technical and material support. The lead agency for this program should be designated by DFO, in its capacity as the Responsible Authority. This lead agency should be the primary funder of the program, and provide scientific resources to it, but the program should be under the direction of the Environmental Advisory Board (EAB). The objective of the program should be to address public concerns, and to minimize misunderstandings about the actual effects of the Project on the regional environment. The program should address the cumulative and synergistic effects of contaminants from all sources, and should include provisions for interpreting and communicating the results to the regional public on a continuing basis. It should fully incorporate the knowledge and experience of the federal Northern Contaminants Program and also develop cooperative links with it. The program should, at the outset, ensure that adequate baseline data are obtained on contaminant levels (not restricted to metals) in a broad spectrum of biota and locations in the region. It should assemble all existing contaminants data for the region from all relevant public and private agencies, and then add to them as required. These baseline data should be available prior to construction, subject to review and recommendations of the EAB.

Recommendation 16

The Panel recommends that DFO and Environment Canada jointly develop a problem statement and research design to identify the means by which mercury could become mobilized in the environment, within the parameters of this Project. If this exercise results in a clear hypothesis linking the Project to mercury mobilization at levels potentially hazardous to fish, wildlife, or humans, then DFO, Environment Canada, and VBNC should develop and fund a cooperative research program leading to prevention or mitigation.

Recommendation 17

The Panel recommends that, before DFO provides authorizations under subsection 35(2) of the Fisheries Act, VBNC prepare a fish habitat protection report on the proposed prevention and mitigation elements of both the Project design and the environmental protection plan. This report should address

  • mitigation of effects arising from flow alterations during construction, pump down periods, operation and decommissioning;
  • minimum (and, where appropriate, maximum) flows to be maintained, including information on how these flows were determined;
  • the sources of water to maintain flows and control mechanisms required to deliver this mitigation;
  • the extent to which char use habitat in Camp Pond Brook;
  • ways that the Project could affect this use and, if necessary, details of any additional mitigation measures proposed to ensure that no significant effects will occur; and
  • an appropriate environmental effects monitoring program.

Recommendation 18

The Panel recommends that DFO provide LIA, the Innu Nation and the general public with adequate opportunity to review and comment on the draft fish habitat compensation agreement.

Recommendation 19

The Panel recommends that DFO indicate to VBNC that the Department will not accept subsequent requests for HADD authorizations for the proposed Project. In the overall environmental effects monitoring program outlined in its fish habitat protection report (see Recommendation 18), VBNC should include a monitoring component designed to validate the predicted effects of the Project on fish habitat and to assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures. If, at some later date, monitoring results indicate that flow alterations have destroyed or harmfully altered additional habitat, the onus should be placed on VBNC to restore that habitat as quickly as possible.

Recommendation 20

The Panel recommends that DFO develop a proponent's guide to HADD identification and the development of fish habitat compensation options that clearly lays out the steps a proponent should take, the methods to be used and the criteria by which the proponent's work will be judged. DFO should complete the criteria for standing water and marine habitat as soon as possible and include them in the guide.

Recommendation 21

The Panel recommends that VBNC and DFO jointly review all potential sources and pathways of sedimentation, and currently proposed mitigation with respect to Camp Pond, to avoid or minimize sediment transport into the pond wherever possible, so that fish habitat loss does not occur.

Recommendation 22

The Panel recommends that, as part of the environmental protection plan, VBNC develop blasting procedures that incorporate DFO's guidelines with respect to protecting fish and fish habitat.

Recommendation 23

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop, as part of the Environmental Management System, an environmental protection plan for Reid Brook that incorporates the following, as required:

  • adjustments to the main access road route and design to minimize potential impacts on Reid Brook;
  • design and construction of appropriate stream crossings on tributaries;
  • specific traffic management procedures at key locations along the road;
  • seepage collection at the toe of Dam H2; and
  • additional mitigation measures to improve the quality of water leaving Camp Pond, if necessary (for example, additional water retention or development of an engineered wetland).

Recommendation 24

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop monitoring studies for contaminant effects in freshwater with input from DFO, Environment Canada and other stakeholders, and consider the findings of the Aquatic Effects Technology Evaluation (AETE) program. To provide early warning of effects, serious consideration should be given to monitoring at least at the benthic macroinvertebrate level, if not at a lower trophic level, provided there is reasonable assurance that the program will be able to deliver clear cause and effect information that is scientifically valid. Additional baseline information need only be collected if required to support the selected monitoring component. VBNC should also offer to collaborate with any research carried out as a follow-up to the AETE program by providing monitoring information from the Project to be used as a case study.

Recommendation 25

The Panel recommends that VBNC carry out hydrometrical, water quality and fish population monitoring in the Reid Brook system; that DFO initiate appropriate studies to increase understanding of fish and fish habitat in the wider Kogluktokoluk-Ikadlivik-Reid system, involving LIA and the Innu Nation in this process; and that VBNC contribute significantly to these studies by providing information and other resources.

Recommendation 26

The Panel recommends that, if the North Tailings Basin is required during the underground phase, before approvals are given for its construction, VBNC prepare a report to review the environmental advantages and disadvantages of consolidating effluent discharge into Edward's Cove instead of constructing a second diffuser in Kangeklualuk Bay. The report should examine the results of the compliance and effects monitoring carried out for the existing Edward's Cove diffuser, and should be subject to review and recommendations by the Environmental Advisory Board.

Recommendation 27

The Panel recommends that DFO, Environment Canada, the Canada Centre for Mineral and Energy Technology and VBNC, in consultation with LIA and the Innu Nation through monitoring partnerships, should develop a research program using the Voisey's Bay Mine and Mill Project as the central case study, to increase the level of knowledge about the effects of nickel-copper-cobalt effluents in the marine environment, particularly with respect to effluent discharge standards, mitigation measures, and monitoring methods and procedures.

Recommendation 28

The Panel recommends that VBNC commit, through its environmental protection plan, to reducing total marine pollutant loadings on a continuous improvement basis, and work with Environment Canada to develop policies and procedures that would

  • improve mill processes to reduce pollutants at source;
  • ensure, through a preventive maintenance program and other approaches, that treatment facilities operate at the highest standards of effectiveness; and
  • upgrade treatment technology as needed.

VBNC should report regularly to the Environmental Advisory Board on the results of this pollution prevention program.

Recommendation 29

The Panel recommends that VBNC be required to include the following in its follow-up program:

  • a marine water and sediment quality monitoring program that includes threshold criteria related to existing water and sediment quality guidelines (threshold levels should be set at a point that gives suitable early warning);
  • mandatory mitigative action if these thresholds were exceeded; and
  • research studies designed to identify any adverse health effects in marine biota, followed by revision of the threshold criteria if necessary.

Recommendation 30

The Panel recommends that VBNC monitor shellfish for metals, bacterial contamination and hydrocarbon tainting to identify the extent of the area affected by the Project.

Recommendation 31

The Panel recommends that vessels built or contracted by VBNC to ship nickel-copper-cobalt concentrates be designed or tested for equivalency to CAC3 standards to ensure such vessels can travel safely through the worst potential ice conditions.

Recommendation 32

The Panel recommends that VBNC incorporate Arctic Ice Regime Shipping System procedures into the Marine Transportation Management Plan to ensure the safe passage of both dedicated and contracted concentrate vessels. VBNC should implement these procedures in consultation with the regulators and with the LIA as part of a bilateral shipping agreement (see Recommendation 97).

Recommendation 33

The Panel recommends that VBNC implement a program, in conjunction with LIA and regulators, to explore the requirement for and viability of winter shipping through landfast ice, which should include the following:

  • additional research into concentrate behaviour and measures to lengthen storage time as operating volumes of concentrate become available;
  • additional study of the behaviour of ship tracks in ice, based on experience from the Raglan operation; and
  • trial voyages by concentrate carriers during initial operating years, under differing winter conditions, to examine the actual behaviour of landfast ice and to assess the safety of such an operation.

Recommendation 34

The Panel recommends that VBNC undertake further modelling studies of the performance limitations of candidate vessels for navigating in ice, and further evaluate their ice navigation performance limitations, including shaft horsepower, hull strengthening, ice-ingestion hazards and ability to operate in ballast condition close to load displacement draft.

Recommendation 35

The Panel recommends that VBNC incorporate the following elements into the Marine Transportation Management Plan to ensure the safety of vessels while shipping in landfast or pack ice:

  • establish a dedicated coordination centre for all shipping to and from the Project area and for all phases of the project;
  • review and adjust shipping plans before the ice season starts to reflect the availability of icebreaker resources and ice conditions;
  • before allowing ships to enter pack ice, ensure that they have sufficient strength and power to operate in ice, that crews are competent in ice and that icebreaker support is readily available, so that such ships are not beset in ice and forced into an uncharted area;
  • provide an ice information system that extends to the limits of pack ice along the route planned for the vessel; and
  • establish protocols to ensure that the icebreaker commander and bulk carrier master reach consensus about procedures to be adhered to during escort, before the ship enters the ice.

Recommendation 36

The Panel recommends that Canadian Hydrographic Service survey additional areas adjoining the proposed route in the interests of ship safety, environmental response, search and rescue operations, and icebreaker operations.

Recommendation 37

The Panel recommends that VBNC, in consultation with DFO and LIA, review one or more alternate shipping route(s) into Anaktalak Bay, and that hydrographic surveys and subsequent charting of these route(s) to modern Canadian Hydrographic Service hydrographic standards be carried out within the next three years.

Recommendation 38

The Panel recommends that the Atlantic Pilotage Authority declare Edward's Cove a compulsory pilotage area to ensure that non-Canadian vessels chartered on the spot market are required to carry a pilot with local knowledge.

Recommendation 39

The Panel recommends that, before shipping begins, VBNC install the best available electronic and fixed navigational aids, including a fixed tide gauge, to ensure precise vessel locating along the shipping route.

Recommendation 40

The Panel recommends that VBNC integrate concentrate loading procedures and controls into the Marine Transportation Management Plan in consultation with Transport Canada. VBNC must provide the services of a port warden when required, especially when loading copper concentrate on non-Canadian vessels. VBNC should also monitor dockside concentrate handling operations, and take corrective action if it observes chronic concentrate losses.

Recommendation 41

The Panel recommends that, before any Project-related shipping begins, VBNC be required to develop a ballast water management program in consultation with DFO. This program should give a high degree of ecological protection to marine waters near the Project. Requirements of the program should be made part of all shipping contracts, which should include a financial penalty for non-compliance.

Recommendation 42

The Panel recommends that VBNC implement its proposed safety and emergency preparedness measures with respect to oil spills.

Recommendation 43

The Panel recommends that VBNC and DFO reach agreement on a credible worst case scenario for oil spills, and that all responsible parties then base their oil spill response planning on this scenario. Response equipment should be positioned, response plans reviewed and updated, and emergency preparedness maintained and tested accordingly, throughout the shipping component of the Project. VBNC and LIA should also include response planning in their proposed bilateral shipping agreement. VBNC should continue to develop oil spill scenarios and fate modelling and should incorporate DFO and public concerns, as appropriate, in its ongoing emergency response planning. Emergency response plans should include specific provisions for effects monitoring, and evaluation of the effectiveness of response measures, that would begin immediately if a major spill occurred. VBNC should ensure that its shippers are fully aware of and prepared to implement this requirement.

Recommendation 44

The Panel recommends that VBNC require ships carrying fuel to the site to carry oil spill response equipment on board, including booms, skimmers, sorbents and storage.

Recommendation 45

The Panel recommends that VBNC provide a support vessel at Edward's Cove to respond to minor incidents, provide docking support, maintain navigational aids and serve as a first line of response to a major oil spill along the shipping route.

Recommendation 46

The Panel recommends that the Canadian Coast Guard, with the cooperation and assistance of VBNC, and in consultation with LIA, update and complete existing sensitivity mapping of shoreline types, critical coastal habitat, key harvesting areas and other areas of local importance, as a basis for cooperative planning of response strategies and priorities.

Recommendation 47

The Panel recommends that DFO fund, conduct or sponsor additional marine mammal studies that contribute to the understanding of cumulative and Project effects, and that Canada provide DFO with the resources necessary to do so. These studies should include regional research, and general studies of noise and ice effects.

LIA should be involved in the design and conduct of these studies, which should be subject to the review and recommendations of the Environmental Advisory Board.

Recommendation 48

The Panel recommends that VBNC determine, in cooperation with LIA, ringed seal whelping times near the shipping route, before beginning winter shipping.

Recommendation 49

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop contingency plans for dealing with the effects of oil spills or chronic pollution on polar bears, and for encounters between humans and bears. These should be developed in cooperation with LIA in the context of the proposed shipping agreement, and LIA should advise VBNC in a timely manner of any polar bear denning activity near the shipping route.

Recommendation 50

The Panel recommends that Canada and the Province act to clarify jurisdiction over polar bears off the Labrador coast. The responsible party should enhance its enforcement capability. It should also establish an effective reporting system for problem kills, such as the system that exists in the Northwest Territories, to ensure conservation and to use as a basis for the compensation recommended in Chapter 14.

Recommendation 51

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop an environmental protection plan with respect to plant community and terrain disturbance that would

  • identify sensitive land types and avoid them to the greatest extent possible; and
  • restrict off-road vehicle traffic to designated routes as much as possible when the ground is not frozen, limit such traffic to essential monitoring functions, favour the use of helicopters for exploration and isolated construction activities, and restrict off-road use of heavy vehicles to winter.

Recommendation 52

The Panel recommends that VBNC maintain adequate on-site equipment and emergency preparedness to respond to forest fires as early as possible, to minimize damage. These plans should be subject to review and approval by the Forestry and Wildlife Branch of the provincial Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods.

Recommendation 53

The Panel recommends that the Province review the effectiveness of the revised Mineral Act regulations, and of its monitoring activities, with respect to the cumulative effects of mineral exploration on terrestrial and aquatic habitat in northern Labrador, in consultation with the Innu Nation and LIA.

Recommendation 54

The Panel recommends that the Province, LIA and the Innu Nation ensure that future environmental assessments of major developments in the range of the George River caribou herd (whether in Labrador or Quebec) pay particular attention to the cumulative effects of range fragmentation.

Recommendation 55

The Panel recommends that VBNC establish appropriate mitigative measures, as it has proposed to do, with respect to roads, pipelines and other linear facilities. These should facilitate unimpeded travel by caribou and ensure that caribou are kept away from the airstrip, by using fencing if necessary. These measures should also conform to best practices existing at the time they are implemented.

Recommendation 56

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop an environmental protection plan for caribou that would

  • provide for regular monitoring of caribou in the Claim Block, and in adjacent areas when caribou may be congregating or migrating, as appropriate;
  • establish a graduated set of responses to caribou presence and movements near the Project, beginning with limits on traffic speed and volume, up to and including complete cessation of traffic during migration events; and
  • provide for monitoring of and reporting on the effectiveness of VBNC's caribou mitigation measures, and their modification, as appropriate.

Recommendation 57

The Panel recommends that VBNC, and its contractors and subcontractors, clean up and remove all equipment immediately after any exploration or other activities occurring anywhere outside fenced-in Project operations, whether within the Claim Block or elsewhere in northern Labrador.

Recommendation 58

The Panel recommends that VBNC and LIA, as part of the shipping agreement, develop a program to monitor and minimize the effects of winter shipping on caribou.

Recommendation 59

The Panel recommends that the Province, LIA and the Innu Nation enter into co-management arrangements for the George River caribou herd with the Government of Quebec and Quebec Aboriginal users.

Recommendation 60

The Panel recommends that the Province undertake or sponsor further research to establish black bear population definition, abundance, structure, dynamics and critical life history requirements, to ensure the appropriateness and effectiveness of adaptive management strategies for black bears. The Innu Nation and LIA should be involved in the design and conduct of this research, and the research should be subject to the review and recommendations of the Environmental Advisory Board.

Recommendation 61

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop an environmental protection plan with respect to black bears that would

  • continue to implement and refine measures to improve food storage and waste management, restrict on- and off-road traffic, and train personnel;
  • provide for the use of electric fencing in Project areas, as appropriate;
  • regularly monitor black bear presence and denning activities; and
  • establish a protocol for avoiding bears and dens during Project activities, by relocating, reducing or temporarily stopping activities, as appropriate.

Recommendation 62

The Panel recommends that VBNC, in consultation with Environment Canada, LIA, the Innu Nation and other interested parties, develop and implement an environmental protection and emergency response plan for seabirds and waterfowl that clearly identifies all sensitive areas and time periods for seabirds and sea ducks, identifies all potential Project interactions and ensures adequate protection of these areas. These plans should include consideration of all sea ducks and seabirds that migrate through the area and that come into contact with the shipping route.

Recommendation 63

The Panel recommends that VBNC, in consultation with Environment Canada and LIA, develop a vessel oily waste management plan that includes

  • procedures for identifying all potential sources of chronic, relatively small discharges of oil, both accidental and deliberate, as well as large oil spills;
  • an explicit zero-discharge goal for chronic oil pollution originating from Project vessels;
  • best management practices designed to achieve zero discharge, to be reviewed regularly; and
  • provisions for adequate, land-based reception facilities for oily wastes from Project vessels, at both Edward's Cove and at the reception port, including a disposal plan for such wastes.

Recommendation 64

The Panel recommends that VBNC, in consultation with Environment Canada and LIA, develop a monitoring program to evaluate the effects of noise and disturbance from passing vessels on breeding colonies. Based on the results of this program, VBNC should, if necessary, develop and implement additional mitigation measures that may involve alternate shipping routes (these are addressed in Recommendation 37).

Recommendation 65

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop an ongoing research and monitoring program for harlequin ducks in the Project area, in consultation with the Canadian Wildlife Service and other interested parties, to better understand the physical, biological and chemical attributes of harlequin duck habitat and to refine an effective mitigation and monitoring strategy.

Recommendation 66

The Panel recommends that VBNC incorporate the following measures into its environmental protection plan in order to protect harlequin ducks and their habitat:

  • construction standards and procedures that require bridges instead of culverts for crossings of waters frequented by harlequin ducks (harlequin duck nest surveys should be carried out 100 m upstream and 100 m downstream of each potential stream crossing site to ensure a minimum separation zone);
  • design standards that ensure appropriate buffer zones between roads and streams that provide harlequin duck habitat, where physically achievable; and
  • procedures to control dust and noise in critical habitat areas.

Recommendation 67

The Panel recommends that VBNC collaborate with Environment Canada, the Department of National Defence, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and other relevant parties to integrate the methodologies and results of VBNC's on-site harlequin duck monitoring program with those of other monitoring programs or studies related to present, proposed or future developments in Labrador, to ensure valid assessment of the cumulative effects of the Project, including shipping activities.

Recommendation 68

The Panel recommends that, in view of risks to waterfowl habitat and populations, and to the success of Aboriginal harvesting efforts, VBNC should pursue one of the following strategies to develop the airport in its proposed location.

  • It should realign the runway so that aircraft would not fly directly over the Gooselands, and operate the airport as a non-precision approach facility until new landing technology permits it to operate it as a Category 1 facility; or
  • Before constructing and operating the proposed Category 1 airport, it should develop an air traffic management plan, which would include measures - up to and including temporary restriction of flights during critical migratory waterfowl staging periods - to ensure that flights would not unduly disturb waterfowl using the Gooselands or disrupt Aboriginal harvesting. The Plan should include effects monitoring provisions, and VBNC should remove air traffic restrictions only if the results of this monitoring justify doing so. The air traffic management plan should be subject to the review and recommendations of the Environmental Advisory Board.

Recommendation 69

The Panel recommends that VBNC continue its current no-hunting and no-fishing policy on site, and ensure that it is strictly enforced. The policy should be expanded to include a ban on egging. The policy should also provide for termination of employment in the case of unlawful trafficking in fish and wildlife, and ensure that employees are made aware of these consequences.

Recommendation 70

The Panel recommends that VBNC implement its proposed policy of returning employees to their point of pick-up, to ensure that they cannot use the site as a base for hunting and fishing during their time off.

Recommendation 71

The Panel recommends that VBNC reach agreement with LIA and the Innu Nation about harvesting compensation regimes before the Project is authorized. These compensation regimes should be negotiated in the context of Impact Benefit Agreements and be in place before construction begins. They should include protocols for compensating Aboriginal people for

  • increased harvesting costs incurred by displacement or impaired access;
  • benefits they might have realized from commercial opportunities that they will not be able to exploit because of the Project;
  • damage to equipment or property; and
  • subsistence and commercial harvests that do not happen because the Project has reduced the abundance or impaired the quality of wildlife.

Liability should be sufficient to cover catastrophic events, and the harvesting compensation regime should apply to VBNC's contractors and subcontractors, including their shippers.

Recommendation 72

The Panel recommends that VBNC commit to providing compensation on a case by case basis for traditional harvesters, other than LIA or Innu Nation members, who may be adversely affected by, for example, disruption of travel on the sea ice in winter.

Recommendation 73

The Panel recommends that VBNC, as part of its environmental protection plan, reach agreement with LIA and the Innu Nation on the provisions of an historical resources protection and management plan, based on a revision of the existing historical resources contingency plan, before the Project is authorized. This plan should be negotiated in the context of Impact Benefit Agreements and be in place before construction begins.

Recommendation 74

The Panel recommends that, to improve access to appropriate training opportunities for as many North Coast residents as possible, the parties involved in the Multi-Party Training Program (the federal and provincial governments, the Innu Nation, LIA, the College of the North Atlantic and VBNC) collaborate to identify new or reallocate existing resources to ensure that Aboriginal participants who do not meet the Employment Insurance eligibility requirements could still qualify for training assistance.

Recommendation 75

The Panel recommends that the Province, in cooperation with VBNC, LIA, the Innu Nation and the College of the North Atlantic, coordinate the development of a skills inventory to help parties develop both appropriate training programs and individual career planning.

Recommendation 76

The Panel recommends that VBNC, in consultation with LIA and the Innu Nation and prior to Project approval, establish a quota for apprenticeships during the construction phase, with emphasis on skills that would be transferable to the operations phases. Through the tendering process, VBNC should require contractors to establish these apprenticeship positions.

Recommendation 77

The Panel recommends that, upon Project approval, the parties to the Multi-Party Training Plan develop a strategy for doing the following:

  • locating some training programs, beyond adult basic education, in appropriate North Coast communities;
  • developing formal and informal support programs, such as support groups, counselling or mentoring,for Aboriginal students who have to leave their home communities for training;
  • providing extra supports, such as child care, to give women, especially single-parent women, equal access to training;
  • developing a monitoring program to track training outcomes - including trainees' participation in, completion of or failure to complete the program, and their ability to obtain employment - to help the parties improve the program, as necessary.

Recommendation 78

The Panel recommends that VBNC, to build on the search and recognition process, work in partnership with LIA and the Innu Nation to further develop and implement the process. LIA and the Innu Nation should play the major role in workshop delivery. This partnership should involve the Tongamiut Inuit Annait and Innu women designated by the Innu Nation, to ensure that the search and recognition workshops for women respond effectively to the concerns and requirements of Aboriginal women.

Recommendation 79

The Panel recommends that VBNC designate Cartwright as a pick-up point for Project employment, and consider the possibility of a pick-up point in an additional community south of Cartwright, if circumstances warrant.

Recommendation 80

The Panel recommends that, before hiring Aboriginal employment coordinators, VBNC set up a joint committee with LIA and the Innu Nation to finalize job descriptions and requirements for these coordinators. This committee should also work with the coordinators to establish guidelines for the anti-racism and cross-cultural programs to be delivered on site.

Recommendation 81

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop a policy to establish the process and criteria to be used to determine if and when an employee who leaves voluntarily or is dismissed for just cause can re-apply for employment on the Project. Through its Aboriginal employment coordinators, VBNC should be prepared to work with prospective employees to discuss ways VBNC can personally support them in a second employment attempt, and ways in which VBNC can address specific workplace problems.

Recommendation 82

The Panel recommends that VBNC, through the Aboriginal employment coordinators, monitor Aboriginal employee satisfaction with language and cultural aspects of the workplace, including reasons why Aboriginal employees leave, and use this information to maintain and improve the Aboriginal employee retention rate.

Recommendation 83

The Panel recommends that VBNC, prior to Project authorization, revise existing VBNC employment assistance programs - including, but not limited to, the women's employment plan and the harassment policy - to address women's concerns. In developing the revised programs VBNC should

  • hold consultations with Innu Women chosen by the Innu Nation and with representatives from Tongamiut Inuit Annait, Women's Resource Development Committee, the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the Women's Policy Office of the provincial government;
  • use gender-based analysis; and
  • include measurable goals and procedures to monitor compliance with federal employment equity legislation and the provincial government's harassment policy.

Recommendation 84

The Panel recommends that, during bilateral negotiations related to impact and benefit agreements, VBNC, LIA and the Innu Nation address resource requirements that would permit LIA and the Innu Nation to develop a comprehensive program of community child care for families with a parent or parents at the work site.

Recommendation 85

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop a policy to provide for family leave for employees with child care or elder care responsibilities who face an emergency situation.

Recommendation 86

The Panel recommends that, as soon as possible and before construction, VBNC, in consultation with representatives of Aboriginal and other Labrador businesses and relevant federal and provincial agencies, establish an explicit supplier development strategy that includes contract procurement procedures and supplier development initiatives. The strategy should include objectives for Aboriginal and Labrador procurement that the company could monitor and evaluate. All provisions of this strategy should conform to commitments made in Impact Benefit Agreements.

Recommendation 87

The Panel recommends that VBNC pay a grant-in-lieu of taxes to the Town of Nain to offset some of the increased costs incurred by the Town as a result of the construction and operation of the Project. The formula used to calculate the grant-in-lieu should be negotiated by the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, the Town of Nain and VBNC. It should reflect expected Project-related uses of community infrastructure and services, projected municipal costs attributable to Project-related in-migration and any Project-related revenues accruing to the community.

Recommendation 88

The Panel recommends that the Town of Nain, LIA, the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada jointly develop a five-year housing strategy for Nain, including funding sources, to meet the housing needs of existing and potential residents.

Recommendation 89

The Panel recommends that VBNC and the Town of Nain develop a communications protocol to keep each party regularly informed about issues and activities of mutual interest. The protocol should include arrangements for representatives to meet when necessary to discuss concerns. The purpose of the communications protocol would be to provide opportunities to address problems at the earliest stages and to promote initiatives that might be of mutual benefit.

Recommendation 90

The Panel recommends that LIA, the Town of Nain, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Development and Rural Renewal collaborate in a community economic development planning process for Nain. The overall goal should be to achieve a diverse and sustainable local economy that can maximize participation in Project-related enterprises, while strengthening existing businesses and seeking out new community-based possibilities. The process should encourage the involvement of the various interest groups, including VBNC, as appropriate.

Recommendation 91

The Panel recommends that the Province, in consultation with the Labrador Inuit Association, initiate discussions with Transport Canada to develop a five-year strategy to upgrade air transportation facilities on the North Coast to meet Category 1 requirements. Because of the limitations of the existing strip at Nain, and increased levels of air traffic, the Panel recommends that Nain receive top priority.

Recommendation 92

The Panel recommends that the Province, through Health Labrador Corporation and in consultation with the Labrador Inuit Health Commission and the Innu Health Commission, assess future preventive and community-based health care needs, set priorities for new or enhanced programs and services, and establish those programs and services, as required.

Recommendation 93

The Panel recommends that VBNC negotiate the proposed monitoring partnerships with both LIA and the Innu Nation through their respective Impact Benefit Agreements. The monitoring partnerships should ensure Inuit and Innu participation in the design, implementation and evaluation of the monitoring program. They should also provide opportunities for Inuit and Innu to obtain necessary training and to collect and analyze data, using both scientific methods and Aboriginal knowledge and observation.

Recommendation 94

The Panel recommends that, before construction begins, Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, LIA and the Innu Nation negotiate an environmental co-management agreement to address both biophysical and socio-economic aspects of mineral resources development in northern Labrador. The agreement should establish an appropriate mechanism for ongoing four-party involvement in associated regulatory processes, the review of future related Project developments and the administration of the follow-up program.

Recommendation 95

The Panel recommends that, under the terms of the environmental co-management agreement, the four parties to the Memorandum of Understanding should establish an Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) for northern Labrador. Its mandate would be to review the results of compliance monitoring and of the follow-up program established under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act; to review permit applications and future Project development proposals; and to address ongoing environmental management issues and concerns. Canada and the Province should fund the Board's operations, which should include a secretariat to coordinate administrative and scientific functions. The EAB should publish an annual report.

Recommendation 96

The Panel recommends that, before construction starts, VBNC prepare an environmental performance document that clearly lays out all key terms and conditions under which the Project would operate and all commitments made by VBNC, including all performance standards, financial assurances, targets, quotas and reporting procedures. The document should indicate in each case the appropriate legal basis (for example, attached as a condition to a Navigable Waters Protection Act approval, included in an impact and benefit agreement or voluntary agreement). This document would be designed to help VBNC report its environmental performance and to help governments, Aboriginal organizations and the public evaluate it.

Recommendation 97

The Panel recommends that VBNC negotiate a shipping agreement with LIA before Project construction starts. Initially, this agreement should address protocols for shipping during the open water period, as well as the processes to be followed to address outstanding issues of concern around winter shipping. The Panel also recommends that DFO play a role in this process as an advisor on matters of marine safety and environmental protection.

Recommendation 98

The Panel recommends that DFO and LIA start talks to identify areas of interest, priorities, resources and opportunities related to marine management planning, to determine which elements of an integrated resource management planning process can proceed. These talks should be designed to produce a memorandum of understanding on these issues in a timely fashion. This planning process should preferably take place under the terms of section 31 of the Oceans Act; if they do not, DFO should identify an alternative approach.

Recommendation 99

The Panel recommends that VBNC prepare its environmental protection plans, emergency response and contingency plans, and occupational health and safety plans in consultation with appropriate regulatory agencies, before construction begins, and that these plans be subject to review and recommendations by the Environmental Advisory Board. The environmental protection plans and emergency response and contingency plans should be developed as field-usable documents, and be reviewed and updated regularly.

Recommendation 100

The Panel recommends that VBNC, LIA and the Innu Nation, through the monitoring partnerships, negotiate an agreement to include significant levels of Aboriginal participation in the research, planning, implementation and monitoring of the reclamation plan through the post-decommissioning phase. This agreement should include appropriate transfers of Aboriginal knowledge and technical reclamation knowledge and skills. Through this agreement, VBNC and its Innu and Inuit partners should collaboratively develop reasonable and achievable objectives for the reclamation process.

Recommendation 101

The Panel recommends that VBNC, as soon as possible and before construction starts, develop policies and reporting and accountability systems to ensure that reclamation objectives are built into all aspects of the Project's design, construction and operations, particularly with respect to minimizing the extent of disturbance. VBNC should

  • continue to develop the reclamation plan in partnership with LIA and the Innu Nation;
  • review all construction and operating plans from the perspective of reclamation;
  • conduct appropriate employee and contractor training and awareness sessions;
  • monitor compliance with the reclamation plan; and
  • report progress, both internally and externally.

Recommendation 102

The Panel recommends that the Department of Mines and Energy consult with the Environmental Advisory Board before deciding on appropriate requirements for financial assurances to be attached to the mining lease. Such assurances should be phased in to cover estimated reclamation and post-decommissioning monitoring costs at any given point in the life of the Project, and should include an appropriate cash component. These assurances may also include bonds, dedicated assets or irrevocable guarantees.

Recommendation 103

The Panel recommends that VBNC develop the biophysical monitoring framework collaboratively. The framework should be based on sound scientific principles, the need for practical environmental management feedback, and the concerns of northern Labrador residents and resource users. The monitoring framework should include a data access policy, reporting protocols and monitoring benchmarks to be used to trigger action. It should also emphasize the need for process transparency and public access to information.

Recommendation 104

The Panel recommends that the Province designate a provincial department or agency to develop and oversee a counterpart to the follow-up program under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which would focus on the socio-economic effects of the Project. The purpose of this program would be to verify the predictions of the Environmental Impact Statement, to ensure that VBNC is keeping its socio-economic commitments, to evaluate the effectiveness of mitigative measures, and to guide provincial resource allocations for services and infrastructure. This socio-economic follow-up program should be developed in collaboration with the Environmental Advisory Board.

Recommendation 105

The Panel recommends that VBNC be required to submit an annual report to the provincial department designated as holding responsibility for the socio-economic follow-up program (see Recommendation 104), and to the Environmental Advisory Board. This report would describe the Project's performance in delivering socio-economic benefits to Labrador Inuit Association and Innu Nation members and to Labrador residents and businesses. If necessary, the Environmental Advisory Board should provide recommendations on mitigation or enhancement measures to appropriate provincial and regional economic agencies and to VBNC.

Recommendation 106

The Panel recommends VBNC provide a gender breakdown for all employment figures submitted in its quarterly reports to the Province.

Recommendation 107

The Panel recommends that both Canada and the Province should incorporate into their respective environmental assessment processes the principle of full consideration of traditional ecological knowledge. The Panel further recommends that this consideration be expanded to include all Aboriginal knowledge. Governments should provide guidance to proponents on their basic obligations and options with respect to using Aboriginal knowledge in an Environmental Impact Statement or ensuring its presentation in the public review process. More specific guidance on using Aboriginal knowledge in future reviews should be provided by the responsible panels on a case by case basis.