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Old mines in Manitoba receive funds for clean-up

The province of Manitoba is working hard to clean up old and abandoned mine sites that have left their mark on the ...


The province of Manitoba is working hard to clean up old and abandoned mine sites that have left their mark on the environment. The government has just announced a $6.8 million in funding to support the rehabilitation of several priority sites, and in total it has earmarked $70-million for the rehabilitation of 149 former mine sites that have been identified as orphaned or abandoned. The program is being administered through Manitoba Science, Technology, Energy and Mines.
Wardrop Engineering is the prime consultant for the rehabilitation plan of one of the priority sites, the Sherridon Mine near Flin Flon in Northern Manitoba.
The mine operated from 1931 to 1951, producing copper and zinc. During that time, it deposited seven million tons of tailings into designated lakes nearby. The tailings continue to produce acid today and possibly for hundreds of years to come.
Doug Ramsey of Wardrop says the biggest part of the remediation work at Sherridon is relocating and neutralizing these tailings, which they are doing partly by raising the level of adjacent lakes and using them to flood the tailings. They will also have to relocate one third of the tailings to lower ground. The goal is to control the acid and metal discharges into Kississing Lake, and also control wind-blown tailings. The engineers are moving into detailed design for the remediation and they hope to have the clean up completed by 2012. SENES Consultants and Gartner Lee are helping Wardrop on the project.
At another abandoned mine, Lynn Lake, the province intends to demolish some buildings, including the head frame, and stabilize a dyke, while at another mine in Gods Lake, the plan is to demolish a power line.
Manitoba has taken a leading role in dealing with the environmental legacy of mining. In 2000 it established the Orphaned and Abandoned Mine Site Rehabilitation Program, and the year before, it introduced regulations that require that mining companies must financially secure the cost of environmental remediation down the road. Before a permit is granted for a new mine, the owners must file mine closure plans and financial security.
Mining continues to be a major component to the Manitoba economy, being its second-largest primary resource industry.
In the announcement on August 30 regarding the $6.8 million for priority mine sites, the Minister of Science, Technology Energy and Mines, Jim Rondeau, noted that the rehabilitation work, “brings direct economic benefits to nearby communities and First Nations, and the long-term gains of clean air, water and land.”
The National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative has a number of priorities, including building a national inventory of abandoned or orphaned mines, identifying funding models for rehabilitation, and establishing ownership and liability issues.