September 24, 2007

Manitoba earmarks $6.8M to clean up abandoned mine sites

Manitoba is continuing its campaign to rehabilitate orphaned mine sites with the allocation of $6.8 million for 2007-08 to support proper mine closures, Science, Technology, Energy and Mines Minister Jim Rondeau said the $6.8 million will be used to fund rehabilitation projects at Sherridon, Lynn Lake, Gods Lake and nine smaller sites in the Whiteshell and Bissett areas.

At Sherridon, engineering work will be completed as well as survey work for the dam across Camp Lake and work will begin on the Sherlet Creek restoration. At Lynn Lake, rehabilitation work will include demolition of buildings within the mine complex including the headframe, ground cover trials and dyke stabilization. Work at Gods Lake will involve the demolition of the Elk Island power line. The overall goal is to address the environmental, health and safety risks of the mine sites and return them as close as possible to their original condition.

"Manitoba is a leader in the rehabilitation of orphaned and abandoned mines through its programs, partnerships, community involvement and funding initiatives," said Rondeau. "The province supports the rehabilitation of orphaned and abandoned mines through its participation in the National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI)."

Manitoba's mine closure regulations, introduced in 1999, require environmental liabilities occurring as a result of mining operations to be financially secured to cover future remediation costs. Mine closure plans and financial security must be filed and approved before a permit is granted for a new mine operation.

The Sherridon mine operated from 1931 to 1951 as a copper-zinc producer and deposited seven million tons of acid-generating tailings into nearby designated lakes. Following closure in 1952-52, the site was cleaned up to meet existing standards at the time.

Between 1976 and 1998, the province commissioned a number of environmental studies and reports, and spent more than $1.5 million between 2000 and 2006, more than $1.5 million was spent to install fences and cap shafts to address safety concerns; old mine structures were demolished and cleaned up as well.

The present rehabilitation plan for the site, developed by Wardrop Engineering, is designed to control wind-blown tailings as well as acid and metal discharges to Kississing Lake, and to make the site safe. The cleanup is scheduled to be complete by 2012.

Overall, the Manitoba government has spent over $6 million on orphaned and abandoned mine site rehabilitation through Manitoba Conservation's Environmental Health Risk Assessment program and the Orphaned and Abandoned Mine Site Rehabilitation program administered by Manitoba Science, Technology, Energy and Mines. The latter program listed 149 former mine sites as orphaned or abandoned, five of which are considered high priority: Lynn Lake, Sherridon, Gods Lake, Snow Lake and Baker Patton.

All 149 sites have been inspected for safety and environmental hazards and scheduled for rehabilitation. Meetings have been held in communities affected by orphaned or abandoned mine sites to present rehabilitation plans, and rehabilitation work has been carried out or is under way at the five high-priority sites. Long-term rehabilitation plans are also being developed for all 149 sites.

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