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Manitoba's Mineral Resources

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Orphaned/Abandoned Mine Site Rehabilitation

HIGHLIGHT: As of December 31, 2013, the Province has spent over $170 million on orphaned or abandoned mine site rehabilitation, mostly through the Orphaned/Abandoned Mine Site Rehabilitation Program administered by Manitoba Mineral Resources.

Orphaned or abandoned (O/A) mines are mines for which the owner cannot be found or is financially unable or unwilling to carry out site rehabilitation. Many of these sites were developed decades ago, before environmental impacts were fully understood and modern operating standards were developed. Some of these mines pose environmental, health, safety and economic risks to communities, the mining industry and governments. Orphaned and abandoned mines exist within all mining jurisdictions in Canada.

Schist Lake, Manitoba, before and after reclamation

Schist Lake, Manitoba, before and after reclamation

Mine site rehabilitation is a responsible action to close former mine sites by

  • identifying and correcting any safety hazards,
  • managing the disposal of potential hazardous and toxic substances,
  • eliminating contamination in the air and water, and
  • returning the land as close as possible to its natural state.

Rehabilitation plans bring significant economic benefits to the area by creating jobs and spin-off benefits. Remediation of mine sites improves the lives of people who live near orphaned or abandoned mines by

  • addressing health and safety risks,
  • providing a more aesthetically pleasing environment for residents, visitors, and tourists,
  • covering tailings to manage wind blown dust,
  • encouraging revegetation, and
  • bolstering the economic viability of the area.

In 1999, Manitoba adopted mine closure regulations which require that environmental liabilities incurred during mining operations be financially secured to cover future remediation costs. Mine closure plans and financial security must be filed and approved prior to a permit being granted for a new mine operation.

The Mine Closure Regulation is currently undergoing a formal review to ensure that its requirements remain relevant and consistent with government policies and programs.

MR 67/99 - Mine Closure Regulation

General Closure Plan Guidelines, available in html or PDF
Mine Closure Guidelines, Financial Assurance available in html or PDF

In 2000, Manitoba established the Orphaned/Abandoned Mine Site Rehabilitation Program to address the public safety and environmental health concerns associated with orphaned/abandoned mine sites.

  • Under the program, 149 former mine sites were identified as orphaned or abandoned, which include five high-priority sites (Lynn Lake, Sherridon, Gods Lake, Snow Lake and Baker Patton), 31 high-hazard sites and the remaining low- to moderate-risk sites.

  • As of December 31, 2013, the Province has spent over $170 million on O/A mine site rehabilitation, mostly through the Orphaned/Abandoned Mine Site Rehabilitation Program administered by Manitoba Mineral Resources.

    ►$45 million has been allocated for 2014-2015 rehabilitation projects in Lynn Lake, Sherridon, Snow Lake, Gods Lake, Ruttan Mine Site, 3 High Hazard sites, engineering work and contract package completion for 10 low/moderate sites in Whiteshell Provincial Park.  
  • Lynn Lake: Farley Tailings Management Area remediation work includes major earthwork tailings relocation and capping, dam inspection of over 7.15 km of dykes and reinforcement, ongoing water treatment. Rehabilitation work on this site is substantially complete.

  • Sherridon: Tailings relocation and neutralization work commenced in September 2009.  The contract value of $34.5 million includes commissioning of a water treatment plant, relocation of hydro lines, haul roads built and construction of  coffer dams. Stabilization of Camp Lake will continue in 2014 followed by one year of monitoring.

  • Snow Lake:  A detailed site investigation was completed in 2008 in order to implement the closure plan.  The final capping of the tailings was completed and re-vegetation of drainage paths undertaken will be completed in 2014. 

    An agreement was signed in 2011 between Manitoba and BacTech for reprocessing of an arsenopyrite residue stockpile on a mineral lease held by QMX Gold Corp. formerly Alexis Resources. BacTech is conducting investigative work to determine the feasibility of reprocessing the pile to recover the gold and stabilize the arsenic and other contaminants.

  • Gods Lake: Completion of the work on the Elk Island airstrip is planned for the spring of 2014. The demolition of old buildings and removal of scrap steel connected with Kanachuan power station is planned for 2014.

  • Ruttan Mine site: The Ruttan site is identified as a High Hazard site.  In 2007, site visits identified the necessity of addressing the effluent discharge at the site, dam stability and nuisance dust in the area.  Despite HBMS’s estimates at mine closure that water treatment would not be required until 2037, it was observed that the open pit was filling up much faster than anticipated and the discharge of contaminated water would occur much sooner.  The Consultant recommended that a water treatment plant would be needed in 2012-2015. The work planned for 2014/15 is commissioning of the water treatment plant and capping of the tailings management area.

  • High Hazard Sites: In 2006 AMEC completed inspection of 149 orphaned/abandoned mine sites identified by the Department. The inspections included a detailed safety and environmental hazard assessment of each site; an outline of the work required to mitigate the hazards and rehabilitate the site; and a cost estimate for the mitigation and rehabilitation work.

    To date, 28 of the 31 high hazard sites have been rehabilitated. In fall of 2009, Mines Branch retained a consultant to continue the site investigation, develop the detailed design and implement rehabilitation work at all remaining high hazard sites. A schedule has been developed that will see the majority of these sites complete by 2012.

  • Low/Moderate Sites: 10 sites located in Whiteshell Provincial Park will be scheduled for rehabilitation in 2014/15 fiscal year. Engineering work will be completed and contract package finalized in 2014.
  • All 149 sites have been inspected for safety and environmental hazards, prioritized for rehabilitation and have had long-term rehabilitation plans completed.

A History of Mine Site Rehabilitation in Manitoba

Province Commits $42 Million For Cleanup Of Orphaned Mines
(News release, October 28, 2009)

Manitoba supports the rehabilitation of O/A mines through its programs, partnerships, community involvement and funding initiatives. In addition, the province also participates in the National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI), a co-operative partnership of the Canadian mining industry, federal/provincial/territorial governments, environmental non-government organizations and First Nations.

Manitoba’s ongoing work on the rehabilitation of O/A mines is consistent with NOAMI objectives to address key priorities and issues including:

  • building a national inventory,
  • setting standards and rational expectations,
  • ownership and liability issues,
  • identification of funding models, and
  • community involvement.

Manitoba hosted the first NOAMI Workshop in Winnipeg in 2001. Sixty-three participants met to review issues and identify processes for moving forward. Manitoba also hosted the 2006 O/A mines workshop to explore and understand the best, emerging and innovative practices relating to the management of orphaned and abandoned mines. Participants included Provincial, Territorial and Federal Government officials; Communities of interest; Aboriginal peoples; NGOs; Academics; Scientists; and mining industry representatives. For more information, please visit the NOAMI website: National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI)

In June 2008, Manitoba hosted the MEND Manitoba Workshop, a federal/provincial initiative organized through Natural Resources Canada’s Mine Environment Neutral Drainage (MEND) Program and Manitoba’s department of Science, Technology, Energy and Mines (now Mineral Resources).

Acidic drainage is recognized as the largest environmental liability facing the mining industry and, to a lesser extent, the public through abandoned mines. MEND was implemented to develop and apply new technologies to prevent and control acidic drainage.

The workshop presented the challenges in acidic drainage for operating, closed or abandoned mines and developed best practices to ensure that future mine development will not have long-term acidic drainage concerns upon closure.

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