Tom Peters was a founding member of the Canadian Land Reclamation Association, which was established in 1975. He was a well-respected environmental leader and valuable contributor to the City of Greater Sudbury’s regreening project.
The Canadian Land Reclamation Association, in partnership with the Ontario Mining Association, presented the third annual award at its Reclamation Symposium in Elliot Lake on June 22.
The recipients were Debbie Berthelot, reclamation manager, Rio Algom Limited, Elliot Lake Mayor Rick Hamilton and Marg Reckahn, president of the Penokean Hills Field Naturalists. The award recognized their efforts in the reclamation of the Milliken tailings management area, now known as the Sheriff Creek Sanctuary.
Located two kilometres northeast of the city, the Milliken mine and mill operated from 1958 to 1964. During this period, an estimated 76,500 tonnes of tailings were released to Sheriff Creek in an area later rehabilitated to form the Milliken tailings management area (TMA).
The sanctuary itself is 30 hectares, 17 of which were tailings remediated in the late 1970s with vegetated and water covers.
Three feet of sandy gravel fill was placed over a portion of the tailings and formed into ball fields that are no longer in use. The flooded tailings formed a wetland.
In 1996, the Penokean Hills Field Naturalists entered into a stewardship agreement with Rio Algom.
“I’m sure there are not too many places where a mining company and a conservationist group would get together as partners,” said Reckahn, “but it happened here.”
Reckahn attributes the collaboration to Erwin Meisner, one of the original founders of the volunteer naturalist group, established in 1995.
“It took a little convincing and a lot of negotiations,” she said, but the three representatives formed a unique partnership.
“We’re responsible for the site,” said Rio Algom’s Berthelot. “Any of the planning, engineering, permitting, implementation, operation and maintenance of the tailings facility is solely Rio Algom’s responsibility. We entered into the partnership and the role of the Penokeans is to provide the support to make it not only a tailings management facility, but also a recreational resource for the community.”
Meisner’s vision helped evolve the Sheriff Creek Sanctuary into five distinct bird habitats, and three colour-coded trail systems that meander several kilometres throughout the site with causeway bridges and lookout blinds.
“It’s a wonderful area, because you can get into the back part of the sanctuary and think you are out in the middle of the wilderness,” Reckahn said. It is used throughout the four seasons, attractive to resident birders, botanists and visitors taking a stroll through the woods.
The city, described as a silent yet important partner, provided staff time and funds from a grant to hire labourers to install a new 50-foot steel bridge and boardwalk, part of the Red Trail system in the wildlife sanctuary.