Mines (Regulatory)

Orphaned/Abandoned Mine Site Rehabilitation

As of October of 2016, the Province has spent over $214 million on orphaned or abandoned mine site rehabilitation, mostly through the Orphaned/Abandoned Mine Site Rehabilitation Program administered by Manitoba Growth, Enterprise and Trade.


Schist Lake, Manitoba, before and after reclamationOrphaned 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.

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.

Background and Status on Manitoba Orphaned/Abandoned Mine Site Rehabilitation Program
Article from the NOAMI Nugget, May 2015

NOAMI Performance Update 2009-2015
Available from the National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative website

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
Mine Closure Guidelines, Financial Assurance

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, 2014, the Province has spent over $200 million on O/A mine site rehabilitation, mostly through the Orphaned/Abandoned Mine Site Rehabilitation Program administered by Manitoba Growth, Enterprise and Trade.

    ►$37 million has been allocated for ongoing 2015-2016 rehabilitation projects in Sherridon, Snow Lake, Gods Lake, Ruttan Mine Site, Fox Mine Site, 1 High Hazard site, engineering work and completion of 2 low/moderate sites.

    Lynn Lake: Farley Tailings Management Area remediation work was completed in 2014. This site is now in a 5 year monitoring program.

    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 2015 followed by several years 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 2015. 

    Gods Lake: Completion of the work on the Elk Island airstrip is planned for the spring of 2015. The demolition of old buildings and removal of scrap steel connected with Kanachuan power station is planned for 2015/16.

    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. A treatment plant was commissioned in 2014 and capping of the tailings management area will continue in 2015/16.

    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. In fall of 2009, Mines Branch retained a consultant to continue the site investigation, develop the detailed design and implement rehabilitation work at all high hazard sites. To date, 30 of the 31 high hazard sites have been rehabilitated with final site work completion in 2016.

    Low/Moderate Sites: Rehabilitation of 10 sites located in Whiteshell Provincial Park was completed in 2015.
  • 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

ARTICLE: Capping the Farley Mine (geosynthetica.net, September 14, 2015)

Manitoba Invests Over $150 Million for the Environment, Continues to Lead the Nation in Green Investments
(News release, February 19, 2020)

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 Agriculture and Resource Development).

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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