October 16, 2006

Manitoba commits over $70M to rehabilitate former mine sites

The Manitoba government is embarking on an aggressive strategy to fully rehabilitate former mine sites in the province, including a commitment of more than $70 million to directly address the safety and environmental health concerns associated with orphaned and abandoned (O/A) mines. In addition, a formal long-term plan to implement environmentally sound rehabilitation measures for O/A mine sites will be developed as part of the strategy.

"Working with industry and other partners, we will strive to ensure former mine sites are safe, secure and free of environmental and public-health hazards," said Science, Technology, Energy and Mines Minister Jim Rondeau. The new initiative, he noted, will build on work already done to rehabilitate former mine sites and will deliver lasting economic opportunities to local and First Nation communities.

The new $70-million provincial account for O/A mines includes a new agreement between the province and Viridian to share the rehabilitation cost of the east tailings management area near the town of Lynn Lake. Under the agreement, the parties will complete a plan for rehabilitation of the area by May 2007.

This year, the province is spending $4 million for rehabilitation projects at Lynn Lake, Sherridon and Snow Lake (three of five former sites assessed as high-risk), as well as the Ruttan site. Work includes environmental monitoring, dike repair, demolition and cleanup, site revegetation and preparation of long-term rehabilitation plans.

Inspections of all of the remaining 144 low and medium-risk O/A mine sites has been completed during 2006 and the results, compiled in a report, will be summarized at a O/A mines best practices workshop, to be held October 26-27, 2006 in Winnipeg. The workshop is part of the National Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI), a partnership of the Canadian mining industry, First Nations, federal/provincial/territorial governments and non-government environmental agencies. The province hosted NOAMI's first O/A mines workshop in 2001.

In 1999, Manitoba adopted mine closure regulations requiring financial securities for environmental liabilities incurred during mining operations in order to cover future remediation costs.

"Many mine sites were orphaned or abandoned decades ago, before environmental impacts were fully understood," said Rondeau. "Today, we are setting new standards for best practices."

More information on Manitoba's orphaned and abandoned mines is available on-line at www.gov.mb.ca/iedm/mrd/mines/oa_rehabilitation.html.

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