The objectives of the environmental baseline studies for 2022 were to:
- Obtain additional information on the natural environment and baseline conditions in the study area through a combination of desktop review and field verification where necessary.
- Identify and provide details on environmental sensitivities in support of the EIA process.
- Provide reports on the scope of works carried out with intention to build the foundation of baseline reports for the EIA process.
Baseline studies for 2022 comprised what have been identified as Valued Components, namely: ecosystems (ecological assessment, terrestrial and aquatic habitat), fish habitat, birds and amphibians, hydrology, water quality and noise. The results of these studies for 2022 are presented in this final baseline report, which is an independent report. This is the continuation of the 2021 Early Baseline Studies, the results for which have also been included.
A combined terrestrial and aquatics baseline study was conducted for the development of Lomiko’s La Loutre project, where an Ecological Land Classification exercise was undertaken, in parallel with a desk-top assessment of potential occurrences of species at risk in the study area. An aquatic habitat characterization was conducted to understand the status of the natural aquatic environment and to provide an overview of the existing conditions within the study of the proposed graphite flake mine. Furthermore, benthic invertebrate community and fisheries studies were conducted in watercourses that are in close proximity to the proposed mine footprint. Hydrometric data such as water level, flow velocity, and river profile data at eight (8) hydrometric stations were measured monthly starting in April 2022; these data were collected to characterize hydrological variation of the streams and lakes within the study area. A total of eleven water quality sampling locations have been used to collect monthly surface water samples since May 2022. Finally, baseline noise measurements were conducted in the study area using a Larson Davis 831, Class I sound level meter.
All work has been conducted in compliance with the various applicable Quebec directives, regulations, and protocols. The conclusions and recommendations contained in this report are based upon the applicable guidelines, regulations, and legislation existing at the time the report was produced.
Situated in remote rural Quebec, the project site is largely unpopulated, consisting primarily of forested land uses. Sensitive receptors in the project area are rural residences west of the La Loutre property. During three separate baseline noise monitoring surveys, daytime noise levels ranged from 38.0 to 45.5 dBA while nighttime levels ranged from 22.5 to 45.8 dBA. Existing noise levels are typical for a remote rural area and reflects the influence of local wildlife and weather. Based on provincial guidance, appropriate assessment sound levels for the cottage community on the western shore of Lac Dore would be 45 and 40 dBA for day and nighttime, respectively. While the appropriate assessment sound levels for the Pourvoirie Club Des Douze would be 50 and 45 dBA for day and nighttime, respectively.
A total of eight (8) hydrometric stations are installed at the project site (shown below) along with 11 water quality sampling stations which have been identified to collect samples and data in 2022. An additional station was added in summer to reflect the point where part of the Project site catchment flows into Lac Doré. Water quality monitoring was conducted according to the Guide d’échantillonnage à des fins d’analyses environnementales (MELCC, 2008), Guide de caractérisation physicochimique de l’état initial du milieu aquatique avant l’implantation d’un projet industriel (MELCC, 2017), Directive 2019 sur l’Industrie Minière (2012); as well as other federal and provincial guidelines.
Although there are no criteria for many of the conventional parameters of surface water quality, the results show that the concentrations fall in low ranges. For the parameters that have limiting criteria (such as alkalinity, chloride, fluoride, nitrate, ammonia nitrogen, total suspended solids, turbidity and total phosphorous), the concentrations at all stations during the monitoring period were below criteria, except for the Total alkalinity in almost all the stations and events. However, both temporal and spatial variations in concentrations of this parameter were observed during the monitoring period and would be related to background conditions. Variations of the concentrations in August, September and December could be indicative of temporally varying effect of sources throughout the year. Therefore, the water quality monitoring operations need to be continued at least over one year period and also to be investigated with further geochemical studies.
Flora and Fauna
The focus of this study was to characterize the forest environment and to identify potential species at risk (SAR) habitats through desktop review of existing data and focused field studies to fill in knowledge gaps. Ausenco ecologists conducted avian point counts at fourteen survey stations from June 7 to June 11, 2022, while Kilgour & Associates LTD biologists conducted avian point count surveys at ten stations from July 25 to July 29, 2022. A total of 51 bird species were observed and heard during the avian point count surveys. The study documented two small, forest-dwelling at-risk bird species (Canada Warbler and Olive-sided Flycatcher) within or in the vicinity of the proposed mine footprint. While there are subtle differences in the finer details of optimal nest-site location for each of the species, both species could nest within any of the adjacent forest ecosites.
Fish community assessments were conducted via electrofishing and minnow trapping during the fall of 2022 in the three watercourses sampled for benthic invertebrates where fish communities had not been previously surveyed in 2021. The fish community assessments found no invasive fish species, sport fish, nor fish species that are currently listed under the liste des espèces fauniques menacées ou vulnérables (Gouvernement du Québec, 2022) or the Species at Risk Act (Government of Canada, 2022). All fish captured are common baitfish to the Outaouais region and are all tolerant to warm waters. Furthermore, all fish caught in 2022 were the same fish species caught during the 2021 baseline studies conducted by Hemmera. The most captured fish species in the watercourses on the La Loutre Property were Northern Red Belly Dace, Fathead Minnow, and Finescale Dace, all of which are common baitfish.