Courageous Lake Project
Principal Investigator: Duthie, Andrew (5)
Licence Number: 15071
Organization: Rescan Environmental Services Ltd.
Licensed Year(s): 2012 2011 2010
Issued: May 30, 2012

Objective(s): To collect baseline data to characterize the environmental (physical and biological) setting in the proposed project area.

Project Description: The objective of the proposed studies to be conducted at Courageous Lake is to collect baseline data to characterize the environmental (physical and biological) setting in the proposed project area. Specifically, data will be collected to characterize the following environmental components: meteorology, wind resources, air quality, noise, hydrology, bathymetry, hydrogeology, aquatic resources, fish and fish habitat, soils, vegetation, wetlands and human health.

Meteorology: An automated (solar powered) meteorology station will operate year round and collect data for wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, total precipitation (rain and snow-water-equivalent), solar radiation and barometric pressure. The instrumentation is attached to an aluminum 10 m high tower. The meteorology station is located near Matthews Creek; which is near the future mineral development zone. The meteorology station is visited periodically for collection of data, diagnostic testing and maintenance, as required.

Wind Resources: An automated (solar powered) 60 m height wind tower will operate year round and collect data for wind speed and direction at heights of 30, 45 and 60 m above ground and air temperature. The wind tower is located near Matthews Creek; which is near the future mineral development zone. The wind tower automatically transmits data via satellite on a regular basis to a dedicated computer server. Obstruction lights are mounted to the wind tower to increase its visibility to low flying aircraft. The wind tower is visited periodically for collection of data, diagnostic testing and maintenance, as required.

Air Quality: Five locations will be selected for dustfall monitoring stations that are outside of the boundaries for the mineralized zone and the proposed project development and sampling will occur for a 3 month period. Dustfall samples will open to the atmosphere for approximately 30 days and be analyzed for settle-able particulate matter.

Noise: Noise measurements will be conducted during the summer and fall to coincide with peak caribou migration and breeding of birds and mammals. A sound level meter capable of logging data will be used to log data for 24 consecutive hours at six sites.

Aquatics: A total of seventeen lake sites and eight stream sites will be sampled. Lake physical limnology measurements will be taken with a multi-meter which measures dissolved oxygen and temperature. Lake water quality and phytoplankton samples will be collected using a GO-FLO (a cylindrical PVC water sampler). Zooplankton samples will be collected using a conical mesh net towed through the water column. Lake Benthos and sediment quality samples will be collected using an Ekman grab sampler (surface area of 0.0225 m2). Stream benthos samples will be collected using a Hess sampler (surface area of 0.096 m2). Stream periphyton samples will be collected from plexi-glass samplers that will remain in situ from July to August. Water quality samples will be collected three times in the open water season and all biology and sediment samples will be collected during the August sampling trip.

Hydrogeology: Multiple Thermistor Strings, Vibrating Wire Piezometers and Electrical Conductivity Probes will be installed in drill holes at the Courageous Lake site. Hydraulic testing, where possible, will be conducted as the drill holes are advanced. At this time the total number of drill holes is to be determined, but is likely to be in the region of seven. The drill holes will be advanced using an exploration diamond drill. The total number of thermistors will be dependent upon the overall depths of the holes, which are yet to be determined. There will be a greater concentration of thermistors at the top of the holes so that the extent of the active layer and the zero amplitude point can be determined. The instrumentation string will also contain several electrical conductivity probes which will be used for a qualitative assessment of groundwater quality. Vibrating wire piezometers will also be included to measure hydraulic head.

Hydrology: Up to ten hydrometric stations will be established around the proposed Project area. Each station will consist of a pressure transducer paired to an automated data logger. The hydrometric stations will be operated throughout the open-water season.

Bathymetry: To produce a bathymetric map of Matthews Lake, a bathymetry survey will be conducted during the summer. Geographic position will be determined using a Trimble Pro XRS DGPS with a TCS1 data logger. Lake depths will be measured using a 200 kHz Marinetek SeaMax depth sounder that will be mounted to a boat.

Fish and Fish Habitat: Thirty-two stream sites and forty-four lake sites will be sampled. Stream habitat assessments will be conducted in the Courageous Lake study area during two sampling periods: freshet (June) and summer low-flow (August). Parameters will be measured to determine substrate, habitat, cover, and physical characteristics of the stream; fish communities in these streams will also be assessed. The lake habitat assessment will collect data to delineate shoreline and littoral substrate types, riparian vegetation types and habitat types. The fish community in streams will be sampled using backpack electrofishers. At each site, one-pass electrofishing with no blocking nets will be conducted over a minimum 200 m-long stream section and for a minimum of approximately 1,000 electrofishing seconds. Electrofishing will not be completed where fish are observed to be spawning. Twelve large lakes will be sampled with RISC standard sinking gillnets and all 44 lakes will be sampled with electrofishing and baited minnow traps. Gillnets will be set randomly throughout the lake, if small, and at specific sampling sites in large lakes (i.e., Courageous Lake and Matthews Lake) for a period of one hour to minimize fish mortality. Electrofishing will occur along the shoreline of the lake for a minimum of approximately 1,000 electrofishing seconds. Minnow traps will be set in the littoral zone at depths of approximately 2 m for periods of 24 hours duration. Traps will be set along the entire lake shoreline in small lakes and at specific sampling sites in large lakes. Biological information collected on captured fish will include: number, species, length (mm), wet weight (g) and age (as read from scales, pelvic fin rays, otoliths or cleithra). As well, fish will be sampled for metal tissue concentrations from select lakes within the project area and the receiving environment. From these lakes, 20 fish of a specific species (to be determined) will be euthanized and a tissue sample taken for metal analysis. An application will be submitted to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada for a License to Fish for Scientific Purposes and to the Animal Care Committee for an Animal Use Protocol.

Wetlands: To classify and map wetlands in the area, a field survey will be conducted to identify wetlands in the proposed project area. At each wetland, a soil will be used to evaluate the soil moisture regime and texture and to identify wetland soil processes. Soil water pH and conductivity will be measured using a handheld sondes in the auger holes. A vegetation species list will be recorded at each site and samples of vegetation (primarily a large leafed sedge or cotton grass) will be collected for trace metals analysis.

Soils and Terrain: Terrain mapping will be carried out by the Rescan Soils Department using anaglyph data. The terrain map will be subsequently ground-truthed in the field. The terrain/soil field program conducted previously provided data for a preliminary soil assessment. The research team plans to undertake two 14-day field trips in 2011, during which additional 120 sites will be surveyed. Ground surveys will include the collection of detailed site, terrain, and soils data. Soil samples will be collected for metals and organic carbon analysis at various locations. Samples will be collected from the 0 cm to 10 cm depth, the 10 cm to 20 cm depth, and the 30-50 cm depth where possible. Soils mapping will be done using the information from the soils/terrain field program and the terrain mapping based on the anaglyph data.

Vegetation and Ecosystem Studies: Additional field studies will be conducted to guide ecosystem mapping in the local study and will expand to include the ice road and regional study area. Mapping based on the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road Ecosystem Classification will be refined using previous field survey data. Field surveys will be conducted for rare and invasive plants and plant tissue samples, primarily lichen, will be collected for metals analysis within the local study area.

Human Health: A country foods baseline assessment is proposed in order to characterize potential human health effects from consumption of local foods. This study will rely on and share data wherever possible with several other disciplines to collect required samples of biological tissues and media to model exposure of chemicals of concern (primarily metals) to local people. This program therefore proposes collection of goose, caribou, lichen, berries, fish, small mammal, bird, and soil samples, pending input from wildlife, vegetation and land use teams to identify specific ecosystem food chains and primary human diet components. All field sampling would be conducted using standard techniques for each of the above disciplines. All samples will be collected, stored and sent to an accredited laboratory for analyses of physico-chemical parameters, following strict protocols to avoid contamination and ensuring proper QAQC. The current consumption rates of foods by people will be assessed, and recommended maximum weekly intake and potential for any health effects under the existing pre-development conditions will be discussed.

Although Wildlife and Archaeology are not within the jurisdiction of the N.W.T. Scientists Act, the research team has applied for the appropriate N.W.T. Wildlife Research Permit and the N.W.T. Class 2 Archaeological permit.

Wildlife: The field season will include surveys for caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, denning habitat, small mammals, bats, raptors, upland breeding birds, waterfowl, loons and shorebirds.

Habitat for key wildlife species will be mapped using the vegetation and wildlife habitat classification system developed for the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road. Field surveys will evaluate the accuracy of habitat mapping.

Aerial surveys will not be conducted for caribou in order to minimize disturbance on the Bathurst herd. Instead, surveys will consist of fixed point ground monitoring. The objectives will be to determine timing of migration, the number of caribou migrating through the study areas, and group (sex/age) composition.

The Courageous Property is ideally suited to ground-based monitoring because it is surrounded by large lakes and is known to be a migration corridor. Ground based visual surveys at fixed point survey locations will be conducted from topographically elevated points within the local and regional study areas. When caribou are observed, group size, composition, location, dominant behavior, and direction of movement will be recorded.

Grizzly bear populations will be assessed using a DNA hair census. A grid of 40 scented scratch posts were set out and checked twice for bear hair. Habitat assessment will be conducted to evaluate habitat suitability mapping.

Wolf populations will be surveyed by repeating den surveys conducted previously. Wolverine populations will be surveyed using DNA hair census if access to the camp is available during the early spring.

Bats will be monitored with an ANABAT and a field crew for presence/absence detection in order to determine if the sensitive listed little brown myotis occurs within the local study area. The monitoring will be conducted in July in order to capture migratory species that could potentially also be in the study area.

Raptor nesting sites were located using aerial surveys and will be assessed again during the egg-laying and chick season to examine nesting success.

Upland breeding bird populations will be assessed using PRISM plots set up previously. Waterfowl and shore bird populations will be assessed using aerial surveys and ground counts for species number and abundance.

Archaeology: Field investigations will take place within the proposed project area. Identified archaeological concerns will be described and plotted on a plan map, and some selected items may be surface collected.

Public meetings for information exchange and project status updates will be held at milestone points of the project. Information will also be provided on Seabridge's company website. Additional communication through letter, email and phone can be made to identified government and stakeholder or interested parties.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from May 30, 2012 to December 31, 2012.