Mines (Regulatory)

A History of Mine Site Rehabilitation in Manitoba

Schist Lake, Manitoba, before and after reclamationOver the last 100 years, mining has helped build and expand communities across Manitoba and continues to play a significant role in the economic well-being of many communities, particularly in the north. Mining currently contributes over $2 billion annually in mineral production to the provincial economy.

Today’s mining practices and regulations ensure that mines are operated and closed in an environmentally sound manner; however, many communities across Canada, including Manitoba, are dealing with the legacy of mines that were abandoned decades ago and continue to pose health and safety problems.

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 (O/A), 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.

All sites have been inspected for safety and environmental hazards, prioritized for rehabilitation and have had long-term rehabilitation plans developed. The work completed and information gathered under the program over the last three years has been used to develop the work plan to carry out the rehabilitation of all the high-priority and high-hazard O/A mine sites by the end of 2014.

To date, 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.

Priority Sites

Gods Lake

  • The Gods Lake mine site, located on the north shore of Elk Island, operated from 1935 to 1943 producing gold.
  • The site was rehabilitated by the owner from 1943 to 1955, before it reverted to the Crown.<
  • Rehabilitation work undertaken by Manitoba:
    • Between 2002 and 2005, a major cleanup of the site was done to mitigate safety hazards, including demolition of mine structures, shaft capping and fencing.
    • A Human Health and Environmental Risk Assessment was completed identifying additional demolition, clean-up and tailing remediation to be undertaken.
    • The power line from the Gods Lake mine site to Kutchewan Falls was removed.
    • A mine site investigation was completed in July 2009 and a remediation/closure plan is expected to be complete in 2015.

Snow Lake

  • Several mines have operated in the Snow Lake area since the 1950s; however, the former Nor-Acme Gold Mine tailings remained a concern to the environment.
  • Rehabilitation work undertaken by Manitoba:
    • In 2007, a closure plan was developed based on recommendations from a Human Health and Environmental Risk Assessment and a refined site investigation.
    • In 2008, Manitoba began implementing the remediation work for closure which is expected to be complete in 2015.

Lynn Lake

  • The Farley Nickel mine operated from 1953 to 1976; the East Tailings Management Area (ETMA) was established in 1953; the mill operated from 1953 to 2002 under a number of operators; primary production was nickel, copper, zinc, and in later years, gold.
  • The Province has carried out environmental monitoring over the years, and has completed a Human Health and Environmental Risk Assessment of the site.
  • From 2001 to 2006, under a Memorandum of Understanding, Viridian Inc. in partnership with the Province, carried out a number of studies and investigations that were used in the development of a rehabilitation plan for the ETMA.
  • In 2006, the Province and Viridian entered into an agreement to share (50/50) the cost of rehabilitation of the ETMA. Under the agreement, a rehabilitation plan for the ETMA will be developed and agreed to by all parties. Rehabilitation work undertaken at the ETMA site includes:
    • construction of a diversion ditch to divert clean rain and melt water around the ETMA (completed);
    • installation of a trial permeable reactive barrier to treat contaminated groundwater (completed);
    • revegetation trials (completed);
    • a review of options for covering the tailings (ongoing); and
    • installation of an engineered wetland to remove contaminants from the ETMA runoff (ongoing).
  • Rehabilitation work completed on portions of the mine site (West Tailings Management Area) where the Province has sole responsibility for ground contamination remediation includes
    • demolition of the Farley Mine Headframe Complex;
    • demolition of the Farley Mine Mill Site and auxiliary buildings;
    • demolition of the Ruttan Loadout;
    • a comprehensive review of water management and treatment options; and
    • development of remediation plans for the mill area and Ruttan Loadout.
  • In addition, the Province decommissioned the existing waste disposal facility located in the ETMA, has constructed a new waste disposal facility for the Town of Lynn Lake and completed the demolition of the El Mine complex near Lynn Lake.
  • In 2014, work was completed with the installation of a "B" cover on the Farley TMA.
  • Over $75 million has been spent on rehabilitation of this site. This site is now in a 5 year monitoring program

Sherridon Mine

  • The mine operated from 1931 to 1951 as a copper-zinc producer and deposited seven million tons of acid-generating tailings covering 47 hectares of land, leaching into nearby lakes.
  • In 1952 and 1953, the mine was closed and the site cleaned up in accordance with the standards of the day.
  • Between 1976 and 1998, the Province commissioned a number of environmental studies and reports.
  • Rehabilitation work undertaken by Manitoba:
    • A Human Health and Environmental Risk Assessment was completed.
    • From 2000 to 2006, fences and cap shafts were installed to address safety concerns and old mine structures were demolished and cleaned up.
    • A rehabilitation plan for the site was developed to control wind-blown tailings, stop acid and metal discharges to Kississing Lake and make the site safe.
    • In preparation for the remediation work, the Sherlett Creek restoration and the Sherlett Creek diversion were completed in May 2009.
    • Implementation of the remediation plan started in August 2009 for the neutralization, relocation and revegetation of the tailings area.
    • Rehabilitation of this site is ongoing with the flooding of Camp Lake in 2013.
    • Stabilization of Camp Lake will continue in 2015 followed by several years of monitoring.

Baker Patton

  • In 2002 and 2003 the site was cleaned and remediation work completed to control acid drainage from waste rock and fines.

Ruttan Mine Site

  • The Ruttan Mine site is located approximately 23 km east of the town of Leaf Rapids.  The mine and mill operated for 30 years until closure in 2002. 
  • The mine employed both underground and open pit mining methods.  The total excavated volume of the pit and underground workings is estimated to be 34 million cubic meters, which included 9 million cubic meters underground and 25 million cubic meters in the pit.
  • The tailings management area (TMA) covers an area of approximately 1.75 square kilometres (175 ha). 
  • Waste rock piles at the site are estimated to contain 43 million tonnes. 
  • Closure obligations were completed from 2003 to 2005.  The closure activities included the removal of most buildings, capping of shafts and ventilation raises and removal of the head frame.  Construction of diversion dams and channels to direct clean water away from the contaminated areas of the site were also completed. 
  • Since 2005, the Province assumed all property interest at the Ruttan Mine site.
  • In 2006 and 2007, the province of Manitoba completed a major project to revegetate the area of the former Ruttan Mill site. 
  • From 2006-2009 inspections were completed on dams, tailing areas and diversion channels, open pit water levels monitored and completed a LiDAR survey of the site.
  • As part of the closures obligations on site acid mine drainage was directed to the open pit with a prediction it would take approximately 35 years to fill the open pit.  Based on surveys the rate of infilling of the pit is occurring much faster than predicted and that the pit will reach capacity in 2013.
  • The mine closure plan called for all contaminated water at the site to be directed to the pit, where it would be contained until it reached capacity, at which time the water in the pit would be treated to allow discharge to the environment.
  • In 2010 a contract was awarded for engineering services and site investigation work at the Ruttan Mine site. 
  • In 2012 the Province has entered into contracts to begin rehabilitation of the site by establishing a treatment facility to allow for discharge off site.
  • Commissioning of the water treatment plant was completed in July 2014..
  • Capping of the tailings management area is ongoing with substantial completion scheduled for 2015/16.

Other Sites

  • Rehabilitation has been completed at 30 of the 31 high-hazard sites. Two low/moderate sites are scheduled for rehabilitation in 2015/16.