manitoba

Orphaned and Abandoned Mines

Orphaned and abandoned mines (OAM) are mines  that are no longer in operation and for which the owner either cannot be found, or is  financially unable or unwilling to carry out site rehabilitation and remediation. Many orphaned and abandoned mine sites were developed decades ago before environmental impacts were fully understood and modern operating standards were developed. Some of these OAM sites pose environmental, health, safety and economic risks to communities, mining industries, and governments.

Mine site rehabilitation and remediation occurs by:

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

 Rehabilitation and remediation of mine sites improves the lives of people who live near orphaned or abandoned mines by:

  • addressing human and environmental health and safety risks,
  • providing a more aesthetically pleasing environment for residents, visitors, and tourists, and
  • bolstering the economic viability of the area by creating jobs.
Orphaned and Abandoned Mine Sites Rehabilitation Program

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

In November 2019, the OAM Site Rehabilitation Program was transferred to Manitoba Conservation and Climate to support mandate and policy alignment as the department works to advance a cleaner and greener Manitoba.

Manitoba Conservation and Climate is responsible for the rehabilitation of orphaned and abandoned mines in the province, which include all:

  • impacted or contaminated sites that it owns or for which it is otherwise responsible; and
  • orphaned sites for which a responsible party cannot be identified or does not have the financial means to undertake remediation.

The OAM Program aims at addressing the environmental and public safety concerns that remain with orphaned and abandoned mine sites in Manitoba. In addition, the program will continue the remediation and monitoring work at orphaned and abandoned sites to reduce governments risk of non-compliance with federal and provincial regulatory requirements.

Manitoba is committed to ensuring a rapid pace of remediation efforts to ensure economic growth, environmental protection and human safety from high risk mining legacy sites in the province.

In addition to the OAM program, the province has also dedicated resources to the remediation of other orphaned and abandoned contaminated sites, such as gas stations. For general information about contaminated sites in Manitoba, visit Contaminated Sites Program.

Management of Orphaned and Abandoned Mine Site

Manitoba became responsible for rehabilitation and funding remediation costs of orphaned and abandoned mine sites prior to the implementation of closure plans and financial assurances under the Mine Closure Regulation in 1992.

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.

Liability for Contaminated Sites

In 2005, the Province of Manitoba adopted an accounting policy to recognize environmental liabilities in financial statements. The implementation of the Environmental Liabilities Policy was completed in 2008/09. The liability of all contaminated sites identified before April 1, 2009 was charged to the opening accumulated deficit at April 1, 2008.

The Province adopted PS 3260 effective April 1, 2014 issued by the Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (PSAB) in June 2010. Section PS 3260 establishes standards for how to account for and report a liability associated with the remediation of a contaminated site. This applies to all governments and government organizations following Public Sector Accounting standards.

A liability for the remediation of a contaminated site should be recorded when contamination is identified and:

  • an environmental standard exists;
  • contamination exceeds an environmental standard;
  • the province is directly responsible, accepts responsibility, or is likely to be responsible;
  • it is expected that future economic benefits will be given up; or
  • a reasonable estimate of the amount can be made.
OAM Program Priority Sites

There are 153 within the Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Rehabilitation Program. According to recent assessment carried out by the OAM program there are six sites identified as high risk sites with the remainder being identified as low to moderate risk. Currently, the OAM Program is identifying priority sites to further reduce risks to the environment and human health. Sites to note are as follows:

  1. Ruttan Mine
  2. Sherridon Mine
  3. Lynn Lake Mine (Farley Mine)
  4. God’s Lake Mine
  5. Central Mine
  6. Betty Shaft
  7. Johnson Lake (Johnson Knee Lake)
  8. Westhawk Sunbeam
map

Westhawk Sunbeam (Wanipigow Area)

Classification: Moderate-Hazard
Location: Approximately 140km East of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Progress: Remediation

The remaining remediation work at Westhawk Sunbeam was deferred to future years because it is not critical to public safety. The site needs to be revisited in order to develop a rehabilitation plan, but there is one opening and three exploration trenches at the site that need to be remediated. Additionally, there is a significant amount of waste rock and miscellaneous debris, including mining equipment, metal, and wooden debris that needs to be cleaned-up. This site is under contract for assessment in 2021, the findings of the assessment will help to facilitate planning and next steps for the site.

Central West

Classification: High-Hazard
Location: Approximately 40km SE of Bissett, Manitoba
Progress: Remediation

Central West work was delayed as a result of a shortfall of 50,000 cubic metres of clay in the surrounding area. Additional clay borrow sources and associated re-design work for Central West had been identified at estimated at a cost of $5M in 2016. This site is under contract for assessment in 2021, the findings of the assessment will help to facilitate planning and next steps for the site.

Betty Shaft (West Hawk Lake Area)

Classification: Moderate-Hazard
Location: Approximately 150km NE of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Progress: Remediation

There is remaining remediation work at Betty Shaft. It was deferred to future years because it is not critical to public safety. The caps at the site need to be replaced, particularly because there is large composite cap lifting and eroding at edge, and they are periodically under water. Additionally, there is a lot of metal and various debris scattered around the site that needs to be removed. This site is under contract for assessment in 2021, the findings of the assessment will help to facilitate planning and next steps for the site.

God’s Lake

Classification: High-Hazard (due to safety hazard of occasional visitors)
Location: Gods Lake Mining Area
Progress: God’s Lake gold mine was remediated from 2008 to 2014. The site includes the Elk Island Airstrip, which was made out of tailings (now remediated). Work remaining to be completed at God’s Lake includes the demolition of old buildings and removal of steel scrap/equipment at the Kanuchewan Falls generating station. No water treatment is required for this site. Although some remediation items have been completed, this site is under contract for assessment in 2021, the findings of the assessment will help to facilitate planning and next steps for the site.

Johnson Knee Lake

Classification: Moderate-Hazard
Location: Approximately 220km SE of Thompson, Manitoba
Progress: Remediation

The remaining remediation work at Johnson Knee Lake was deferred to future years because it is not critical to public safety. There is an undetermined volume of waste rock that needs to be removed. There is also a significant amount of tailings to be remediated. Additionally, a variety of debris needs to be cleaned-up. This site is under contract for assessment in 2021, the findings of the assessment will help to facilitate planning and next steps for the site.

Sherridon Mine

Classification: High-Hazard, High Priority (due to proximity of Sherridon community and previous investment in remediation activities, including water treatment)
Location: Approximately 65km NE of Flin Flon, Manitoba
Progress: Remediation

Tailings relocation and neutralization work commenced in September 2009. Camp Lake is adjacent to the mine site, and water flowing from Camp Lake enters Cold Lake, where the community of Sherridon is located. Water quality monitoring has been ongoing during remediation. The tailing relocation and neutralization was being carried out by contractor Tervita and was completed in fall 2021.

Ruttan Mine

Classification: High-Hazard, High Priority (due to environmental hazard, previous investment, and public accessibility)
Location: Approximately 23km east of the town Leaf Rapids, Manitoba
Progress: Remediation

Remediation is currently focussing on covering of mine tailings. The site is on a 40-year water treatment plan. Manitoba is continuing the remediation work as designed by the project consultant, KGS. The tailings cover work is currently being carried out by contractor Strilkiwski Contracting Ltd, and is anticipated to be completed by mid-2022.

Farley (aka Lynn Lake) Mine

Classification: High-Hazard
Location: Directly East of Lynn lake, Manitoba
Progress: Long-Term Monitoring

Rehabilitation of Farley tailings area was initiated and completed in 2012/13. Upon completion, the site entered into a long-term monitoring and periodic water treatment phase. Water treatment is required, and is determined by water quality monitoring results and annual runoff volumes. A water treatment campaign is generally required every three to four years, with the next expected treatment required in 2021/22. Additional remediation items have been identified since completion in 2012/13. Completion of these remediation activities will help to facilitate the goal of eliminating active water treatment at the site.