The provincial government has given the green light to the proposed Kootenay West open-pit gypsum mine 12 kilometres north of Canal Flats that is expected to be in operation for nearly 50 years.
George Heyman, the Minister of Environment, along with Michelle Mungall, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, have issued an Environmental Assessment Certificate (EAC) to CertainTeed Gypsum Canada, which was announced on Thursday afternoon.
The ministers were satisfied with recommendations from Environmental Assessment Office, which considered key factors such as effects on surface water, ground water quality and quantity, along with effects on wildlife, archaeological resources and Aboriginal consultation.
“We are of the view that consultation has been carried out in good faith and that the process of seeking to understand potentially outstanding issues and project impacts was reasonable,” reads the Minister’s Reasons for Decision. “We area also of the view that the potential of adverse effects on the Aboriginal Interests of Aboriginal groups has been appropriately avoided, minimized or otherwise accommodated.”
It’s welcome news to residents around Canal Flats, who were hit hard economically when a sawmill closed in 2015, said mayor Ute Juras.
“I’m quite excited about it,” said Juras. “This project has been going on for a long time and I am excited that it’s moving forward, I think it will be good for Canal Flats as well.”
The proposed mine site will cover 135 hectares and is located on traditional territories of the Ktnunaxa Nation and the Shuswap Indian Band. It is expected to produce 400,000 tonnes of gypsum over a 43-year lifespan, and will replace CertainTeed’s Windermere Operations near Invermere.
It is estimated that 43-full time jobs will be created over the year and a half it will take to build the mine, which will cost $23 million. Annual operating costs are expected to reach $4.3 million. During construction, CertainTeed also estimates that 40 full time jobs will be generated in direct-supplier industries.
CertainTeed will have 17 full-time employees commute from Windermere Operations to the new mine site, however, over time the company expects those jobs to transition to employees from the Canal Flats area.
As part of the EAC requirements, CertainTeed must adhere to 21 conditions, which are legally binding, to maintain compliance. Key conditions include developing a groundwater monitoring plan, a dust management plan, a First Nations engagement and reporting plan, and a wildlife management plan.
Prior to the approval of the EAC, there was a consultation period, which was instrumental in changing a proposed truck haul route to a forest service road east of Canal Flats instead of through the village itself.
In addition to the EAC, CertainTeed must also obtain other provincial and local government permits to proceed with mine construction.