Orphaned and Abandoned Mines

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Orphaned and Abandoned 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 industries, and governments.

The program aims at addressing the environmental and public safety concerns that remain with orphaned and abandoned mine sites in the province. Also, continued remediation and monitoring reduces government risk to non-compliance with federal regulatory requirements.

OAM Program Objectives:

  • To manage OAM sites and ensure remediation and rehabilitation of identified high risks mine sites;
  • To ensure a rapid pace of remediation initiatives pertaining to OAM sites to address environmental and public safety concerns;
  • To coordinate the implementation of various activities on high priority OAM sites including but not limited to assessment, monitoring, treatment, and construction management to reduce government risks to non-compliance with regulatory requirements; and
  • To develop a contract management framework and key policies and procedures to effectively execute contract agreements in order to deliver project in a timely manner with an end goal of decreasing overall environmental liabilities.

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.

The province has committed to ensure a rapid pace of remediation initiatives to ensure economic growth, ecological protection of natural resources and environment and human safety from high risk mining legacy sites in Manitoba.

In November 2019, the Orphaned and Abandoned Mine Site Rehabilitation Program was transferred to the department of Conservation and Climate (CC) from the former department of Growth Enterprise and Trade (GET), to support mandate and policy alignment with other similar programs managed by the department.

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

In 2006, the Province contracted AMEC Earth and Environmental to identify and evaluate 131 mine sites in the field.

AMEC’s 2007 report did not include eight site already identified as high priority sites and accounted for in the Environmental Liability Fund which include:

  • Ruttan
  • Sherridon
  • Farle/LynnLake
  • El Mine
  • Baker Patton
  • Snow Lake
  • Fox Lake
  • God’s Lake

This brings the total number of sites to 139.

The sites were also categorized as follows:

  • 39 high hazard
  • 51 moderate hazard
  • 49 low hazard

The department has undertaken the following key steps to stabilize the overall program:

  • Review of current program structure, strategies, and resources. Conservation and Climate has already filled two staffing positions and secured an interchange with the Manitoba Hydro since the program was transferred.
  • Review of the 2007 report assessing all abandoned mine sites in the province. This includes planning for re-evaluation of the sites, and removing sites from the program that are a minimal risk to public safety and the environment and not eligible for booking under the environmental liabilities standards.
  • A thorough review of the current high and moderate priority hazard sites to determine the best approaches for each site. This review considers:
    • Public perception
    • Local and/or indigenous engagement
    • Environmental risks, safety concerns
    • External negotiations/legal dealings

To implement the new OAM Program, the department has developed a work plan that is divided into three categories:

  • General program initiatives – outlines the key initiatives the department will focus on stabilizing the program overall.
  • Remedial projects – specific plans to continue two remedial construction projects at Ruttan and Sherridon.
  • Long-term monitoring and treatment – a plan to execute the long-term monitoring and treatment that is required at high risk sites once remedial construction has been completed.

The program has identified the following 12 high hazard sites that continue to have high ongoing risks to the environment and human health:

  1. Ruttan Mine
  2. Sherridon MIne
  3. Fox Lake Mine
  4. Snow Lake Mine
  5. Lynn Lake Mine (Farley Mine)
  6. EL Mine
  7. God’s Lake Mine
  8. Baker Patton
  9. Central West Mine
  10. Betty Shaft
  11. Johnson Lake (Johnson Knee Lake)
  12. Westhawk Sunbeam

The following work is being planned for the OAM sites:

  • Drainage Improvements and Revegetation
  • Water Treatment
  • Sludge Removal
  • Structure Decommissioning
  • Site Monitoring and Treatment

Inaction would create larger risks to both the environment and public health. Manitoba is working to accelerate the timeline to remediate and rehabilitate orphaned and abandoned mines within our province.

The Government of Manitoba recognizes it has a duty to consult in a meaningful way with First Nations, Métis communities and other Indigenous communities when any proposed provincial law, regulation, decision or action may infringe upon or adversely affect the exercise of a Treaty or Aboriginal right.

Conservation and Climate is aware of the government’s commitment to engaging Indigenous communities in a mutually respectful process and establishing a meaningful partnership. Engagement processes with the Indigenous communities is consensus-based and reflects the spirit of reconciliation of renewing relations with Indigenous people.

In cases where the department is required to engage Indigenous peoples and communities for the program, it will follow the Interim Provincial Policy for Crown Consultations with First Nations, Metis Communities and other Indigenous communities https://www.gov.mb.ca/inr/reconciliation-strategy/duty-to-consult-framework.html.

The department will communicate and engage when:

  • program activities affect communities, stakeholders and the public
  • decisions have a long-term and or significant social, environmental, health and economic impact for one or more communities and stakeholders
  • program-related issues have a direct impact on a group or community
  • a decision infringes Indigenous Rights

Communication approaches may vary depending on the issue. Regardless, the messaging must be consistent, relevant and understandable.

The extent of issue and level of decision will influence the level of engagement and techniques and approaches to be used. The program will adapt the Public Engagement Framework for the Manitoba Public Service and the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) spectrum of engagement, if there is a requirement for the program to engage the public in any future initiatives.