Rehabilitation of Abandoned Mine Sites

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Kativik Regional Government

The information that follows was compiled by Jean Dionne, a mining engineer on the staff of the mine-site rehabilitation division of the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (MERN), using data from CAPERN – 013, a document tabled before the Assemblée nationale’s committee for ‘Examination of the 2014-2015 estimates of expenditure.

Inventory of the state’s environmental liability

As of March 31, 2013, 698 mine sites were registered in the inventory.

These include:

  • 498 mine exploration sites, of which
  1. 275 are exploration sites in Nunavik (the majority of the 18 major sites have been restored)
  2. and 223 are exploration sites in the Eeyou Istchee James bAY Territory.
  • 198 operating sites.
  • 12 quarries and sand pits, of which 6 have been restored.

Of the 198 operating sites,

  • 118 have been restored or made secure, including 10 major sites (Aldermac, Bevcon, East Sullivan, Eustis, Lorraine, Normétal, Opémiska, Terrains Aurifères, Sullivan, and Wood Cadillac), which require only monitoring and maintenance;
  • 30 sites remain to be secured;
  • 31 mine sites have to be rehabilitated, including 3 major sites (Granada, Lac Jeanine, and Vauze) ;
  • Work is underway at 19 major sites (Barvue, Beattie, Capelton, Darius O’Brien, East Malartic, Lac Renzy, Lapa, Manitou, Montauban United, New Calumet, Pandora, Preissac Molybdénite B, Principale, Siscoe, Suffield, Tétrault 1, Tétrault 2, Thompson Cadillac, and Waite Amulet.

Main sites undergoing rehabilitation

  • The Manitou site, in Val-d’Or. Thanks to a partnership agreement reached in 2006 with between Agnico Eagle Mines, MERN uses tailings from the Goldex mine to neutralize acid-generating tailings spread over 200 hectares.
  • The East Malartic site, where a partnership with Osisko allows tailings to be neutralized by tailings from the Canadian Malartic mine.
  • The former Barvue site, in Barraute, where rehabilitation began in Fall 2011, should be finished by Fall 2015.
  • The two sites on Siscoe Island, in the Sullivan sector of Val-d’Or, where rehabilitation work should begin in 2014.
INVENTORY OF THE STATE’S ENVIRONMENTAL LIABILITY

ABITIBI-TÉMISCAMINGUE

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
61 10 32

BAS-SAINT-LAURENT

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
2 0 1

CENTRE-DU-QUEBEC

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
0 0 1

CHAUDIÈRE-APPALACHES

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
1 0 7

CÔTE-NORD

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
2 1 4

ESTRIE

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
16 2 2

LANAUDIÈRE

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
1 0 0

LAURENTIDES

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
1 0 2

MAURICIE

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
1 1 1

MONTÉRÉGIE

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
0 0 1

NORD-DU-QUÉBEC

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
10 2 10

OUTAOUAIS

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
23 2 9

TOTAL

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
118 18 70

NUNAVIK (FONDS RESTOR-ACTION NUNAVIK)

MINING SITES REQUIRING EXTENSIVE WORK

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
15 1 2

MINING SITES REQUIRING MEDIUM-SCALE WORK

RESTORED SITES UNDER RESTORATION TO BE RESTORED
21 1 4

Orphaned mining sites: history and legalities

1940 – 1980

Between 1940 and 1980, important mining exploration projects were launched in Nunavik, most notably in the Labrador Trough and in Ungava.

Environmental considerations were not what they are today. There was no regulation governing companies, mining or otherwise, in order to limit environmental and social impact.

1990

In the early 1990s, Inuit communities initiated the cleanup of mining sites on their territories.

1991

In 1991, mining legislation obliged mining companies to submit restoration plans and to provide appropriate financial guarantees required to cover 70% of restoration costs for the accumulation areas (art. 232.1 to 232.10). These articles were applied in 1996 following the adoption of regulations.

In 1991, restoration operations were undertaken by the government. They would end in 2002. Eleven mining sites were restored, at a cost of $20 M.

As for sites closed in 1995, the law allowed the Minister to direct those responsible to undertake restoration operations. That said, it was not always possible to find those companies responsible, because of bankruptcies etc. These sites became known as “Orphaned mining sites”. The financial responsibility associated with the restoration of these sites fell to the State.

2007-2012

In 2007, the mining industry created the Restor-Action Nunavik Fund, in collaboration with the Quebec government and Inuit communities. Around thirty mining companies contribute financially to this fund, as do the mining associations, industry suppliers and the Quebec government.

From 2007 to 2012, the the Restor-Action Nunavik Fund cleaned several mining sites. Eighteen priority sites were all completely restored. The Fund is currently working on restoring non-priority sites. To see the complete document about site cleaning by the Restor-Action Nunavik Fund, click here.

The mining industry is working on the creation of a second fund which will be dedicated to the restoration of mining sites on Cree territory.

In parallel, certain mining companies have taken the initiative of cleaning abandoned sites. Among them, Canadian Royalties (+30 sites), Oceanic Iron Ore Corp., Anglo American, Rockland Minerals Corp., and Xstrata Nickel. Rio Tinto has also undertaken the responsibility of cleaning and securing the old iron mine in Shefferville.

1983

In 1983, the MENVIQ (Quebec environmental ministry) developed an inventory of hazardous waste disposal sites. Among these, 100 mine tailing sites. The Ministry recommends the establishment of a program for the study and restoration of contaminated sites. The MEND (1989-1997) and the mining site restoration program both operate under the auspices of the government.

1987

Prior to 1987, nothing in the mining legislation obliged mining companies – or any other industrial sector company – to conduct restoration operations. The conditions upon which a company could abandon its lease were limited to:

  • submitting the request in writing
  • having paid royalties owed
  • having submitted all plans as required by law

In 1987, mining legislation imposed a new condition upon a lease holder wishing to abandon a mining site. The lease holder was required to obtain authorization from the Minister of natural resources, who consulted with the Minister of the environment.

1995

In 1995, articles 232.1 to 232.10 were applied following the adoption of regulations.

In the case of mining sites which were closed, mining legislation allowed the Minister to direct those responsible to undertake restoration operations. Unfortunately, it was not always possible to find those companies responsible, because of bankruptcies etc. These sites became known as “Orphaned mining sites”. The financial responsibility associated with the restoration of these sites fell to the State.

2006

In 2006, the government accepted to record this environmental liability as part of the public debt, in order to ensure funding for the Ministry of natural resources (MRN). Since then, the MRN has proceeded with evaluations and restorations of abandoned mining sites.

2013

The rules have changed since August 23rd 2013, following regulatory changes surrounding financial guarantees.

The financial guarantee corresponds to 100% of the cost of restoration operations. With the adoption of proposed amendments to the Mining Act, the approval of a restoration plan prior to the beginning of operations has become a pre-condition to obtaining a mining lease.

Within 90 days of approval of a company’s restoration plan, it must pay 50% of the amount required for restoration. The sum remaining must be paid in two instalments (25% each) on the anniversary date of the restoration plan’s approval.

Notes

  • Photo credit: Kativik Regional Governmen
  • Video credit: Minalliance

References

  1. Association minière du Québec (AMQ)
  2. Restor-Action Nunavik Fund
  3. Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles du Québec (MERN)