Environmental Assessment & Permitting

The mine site included in the Whabouchi project is located on James Bay territory and is therefore subject to a specific authorization process under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA). The JBNQA includes an environmental and social protection system (Chapter 22), which provides for mechanisms to assess the environmental and social impacts of development projects.

The project is subject to the provincial environmental and social impact assessment procedure under Quebec’s Environment Quality Act (EQA). Therefore, the provincial environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) procedure, as established in the provisions of Chapter II of the EQA applicable to the Eeyou Istchee James Bay region, applies to the Whabouchi project.

The project is also subject to the federal environmental assessment process under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA (2012)).

On the other hand, with regards to the electrochemical plant to be located in Southern Quebec, following a comprehensive review of the applicable legal requirements, this part of the Project does not require going through neither the provincial nor the federal ESIA process.

However, a set of provincial and municipal authorizations and permits will be required to allow plant construction, with applications being filed concurrently with the construction work and therefore not impacting on the project schedule.


Quebec Environmental Assessment Process Applicable to the Mine Project

The Quebec Environmental Quality Act (EQA) comprises two Chapters. Chapter I gives general provision and Chapter II gives provisions applicable to the Eeyou Istchee / James Bay and Northern Quebec Region in accordance with the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), signed by the Native peoples of the northern regions.

The procedure described in the EQA and the Regulation respecting the environmental and social impact assessment and review procedure applicable to the territory of James Bay and Northern Québec (Eeyou Istchee James Bay) is summarized here.

As per Chapter II of Quebec’s Environmental Quality Act, the Environmental and Social Impact Review Committee (Committee or COMEX), an independent body composed of members appointed by the governments of Quebec and the Cree Nation, was responsible for the assessment and review of the social and environmental impacts of the Whabouchi Project. Nemaska Lithium submitted its impact assessment statement to the COMEX in April 2013 and the public was given the opportunity to make submissions to the Committee. The COMEX also held public hearings in March 2015 as well as other forms of consultation, enabling the Committee to consider the concerns of the people in the territory and ensure they were accounted for in the Whabouchi Project and reflected in the CA. Throughout the life of the project, Nemaska Lithium has maintained a constant dialogue with stakeholders, including the members of the Cree Nation of Nemaska, to develop a mining project that is socially and environmentally acceptable.

In August 2015, the MDDELCC, following the COMEX’s positive recommendation, granted Nemaska Lithium with its Certificate of Authorization for the Whabouchi Project (see Documents and Links). This CA is the most significant permit for mining projects in Quebec and allows Nemaska Lithium to pursue project financing discussions to start mine construction.


Canada Environmental Assessment Process Applicable to the Mine Project

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA 2012) was introduced on July 6th, 2012. Under this Act, an environmental assessment focuses on potential adverse environmental effects that are within federal jurisdiction. An environmental assessment also considers a comprehensive set of factors that include any cumulative effect, mitigation measure and comments received from the public.

According to CEAA (2012), proponents of designated projects are required to submit a description of the designated project to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the “Agency”) to inform on whether or not an environmental assessment of the designated project is required. The project description for the Whabouchi Project was tabled by Nemaska Lithium on December 14, 2012.

The Agency took into account the general public’s comments, including the observations made by Aboriginal groups and federal ministries before providing the final version of the environmental impact assessment guidelines to the proponent, which it did in March 2013.

The proponent then has to submit to the Agency an environmental impact assessment identifying the environmental effects of the project and propose measures to mitigate these effects, while accounting for the Agency’s guidelines. Nemaska Lithium tabled its Environmental Impact Statement in May 2013.

The Agency may also decide to hold public hearings, something which was completed in November 2013. Nemaska Lithium also provided the Agency with additional information over the course of 2014 to reflect the modifications to the mine site that were included in the Feasibility Study of June 2014.

Following a comprehensive assessment of the Whabouchi Mine Project, the Canadian Minister of Environment decided in July 2015 that the project is not likely to cause any significant adverse environmental effects, and set out in her decision statement the conditions relative to the mitigation measures and monitoring program to be respected by Nemaska Lithium (see Documents and Links). Along with the Minister’s decision, the Agency issued its final environmental assessment report outlining the potential environmental effects of the project, the proposed mitigation measures, the significance of the residual adverse environmental effects of the project and the requirements of the monitoring program.

All documents issued by Nemaska Lithium and the Agency are available here.


Environmental Permitting of the Mine Project

Even if the project underwent an environmental impact assessment and is authorized by the provincial government pursuant to the Environment Quality Act (EQA), it would still be subject to Section 22 of the EQA and must therefore obtain a certificate of authorization to be issued by the Regional Office of the MDDELCC.

The issuance of the certificate of authorization, however, should only be a formality as the certificate issued pursuant to the approval of the ESIA binds the Minister as to where he exercises the powers provided in Section 22.

In addition to the certificate of authorization required under Section 22 of the EQA, the proponent must obtain the permits, authorizations, approvals, certificates and leases required from the appropriate authorities. Those are listed here.

The authorization application and permitting process is expected to take one full year. Applications may be filed concurrently with the construction work and shall therefore not impact on the project schedule. This procedure is common to every mining projects in Quebec.