October 18-25, 2004

Sask concludes survey of abandoned uranium, metal mines

The third and final report on Saskatchewan Environment's Abandoned Mines Assessment program examines a group of 28 sites, focusing on former mine sites in the Creighton area. While most of the abandoned mine sites assessed under the three-year program were found to pose no immediate public safety or environmental risk, there are some sites with open shafts, deteriorated buildings or exposed tailings that are of concern.

"Saskatchewan Environment has assessed all of these sites with the goal of protecting public safety and the environment," said Environment Minister David Forbes. "We have already taken action at some sites, including the posting of warning signs, and will continue to work toward remediation of other sites."

The latest report concludes the department's survey of all known abandoned uranium and metal mines in Saskatchewan. Seventy-five former mine sites were examined. The first report, released in 2001, reviewed 26 sites; findings concerning another 21 sites were presented in the second report, released in 2002

In addition to discussing the remaining 28 sites, the third report includes a full list of all the sites reviewed. Sites earlier cited as requiring cleanup include former uranium sites at Gunnar and Lorado near Uranium City, which have exposed tailings. The Gunnar site also has remaining mine structures that need to be addressed.

Saskatchewan Environment is responsible for dealing with any risks posed by abandoned precious and base metal mines; Saskatchewan Northern Affairs is leading the provincial strategy to confirm federal participation in the cleanup of abandoned uranium mines.

Current provincial legislation prohibits any mines from being abandoned in Saskatchewan. Companies are required to set aside enough money for site cleanup before they can start mining and to decommission the sites when the mining operation is finished.

In the 1950s and 1960s, many mining companies were not required to decommission their operations and they simply abandoned their mines when the ore ran out. Although provincial legislation requires the responsible company to clean up sites such as these, most of those companies do not exist today. As a result, governments have had to assume the task of cleaning up these orphaned sites.

The $150,000 survey, with its three reports, was funded primarily through the province's Centenary Fund, which was established in 2000 to invest in capital projects that celebrate the province's centennial in 2005. Saskatchewan Northern Affairs also provided funding to assist with the mine inspections.

The report may be viewed on the Saskatchewan Environment Web site, www.se.gov.sk.ca/environment/protection/land/land.asp. More information is also available from Brent Hamilton at Saskatchewan Environment's La Ronge office, 306/425-4483.

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