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Goldcorp PGM honoured for reclamation effort

Timmins clean-up wins Tom Peters Memorial Mine Reclamation Award

Left to right are Roger Taillefer, project supervisor; Laszlo Gotz, environmental manager; Cindy Blanchard-Smith, assistant deputy minister, Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines; Thomas Sulatycky, environmental engineer; and Rick Francoeur, senior environmental co-ordinator. Missing from the photo but also part of the reclamation team is Beverly Taylor, assistant project supervisor.

Goldcorp’s Porcupine Gold Mines was presented with the Tom Peters Memorial Mine Reclamation Award at the sixth annual Ontario Mine Reclamation Symposium June 18 and 19 for transforming an industrial wasteland into a recreation area for the citizens of Timmins.

The award was established by the Canadian Land Reclamation Association (CLRA), the Ontario Mining Association (OMA) and the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) to encourage the pursuit of excellence in mine reclamation and to honour outstanding achievement in the practice of mine reclamation in Ontario.

Located less than two kilometres from Timmins’ downtown core, the former industrial wasteland served as a tailings dump for the Hollinger and McIntyre mine operations from 1920 until sometime in the 1960s.

Tailings from the Hollinger Mine filled 80 per cent of Gillies Lake and, immediately to the south, McIntyre Mine filled a natural depression known as the McIntyre Concentrate Dump with an off spec goldsulphide concentrate which wasn’t amenable to gold recovery at the time.

Acid drainage

Over the years, surface water from the concentrate dump was allowed to drain northwest towards the Hollinger Tailings Management Area and, during the Timmins Storm in 1961, heavy surface runoff created deep erosion gullies across the entire site. Oxidation of the sulphur created sulphuric acid, resulting in low pH water runoff and the precipitation of heavy metals, adversely affecting the water quality, aquatic life and esthetics of the area.

Tailings migrated onto adjacent private lands and acid mine drainage impacted a creek that runs through Timmins and empties into the Mattagami River.

In 1988, Australian-based ERG Resources Inc. attempted to reprocess tailings from both Gillies Lake and the concentrate dump, but eventually went bankrupt, leaving behind steep slopes and depressions that created more of a mess.

Royal Oak Mines wound up as the owner of the site through the 90s, but folded in 1999.

“There was no closure plan, no financial assurance and no rehabilitation work had been done on the site,” MNDM assistant deputy minister Cindy Blanchard-Smith told delegates at the awards banquet. To spare Ontario taxpayers from the cost of cleaning up the mess, a deal was struck in December 1999 whereby Kinross Gold acquired the Timmins area assets of Royal Oak for $5 million and assumed responsibility for cleaning up the historic tailings sites on the property.

Kinross subsequently partnered with Goldcorp to establish the Porcupine Joint Venture, and in 2007, Goldcorp bought out Kinross. Planning for the clean-up of the Hollinger Tailings Management Area began the following year, with work commencing in the spring of 2009.

Tailings that had migrated onto private lands adjacent to the site were relocated onto Goldcorp property, and acid generating tailings from the concentrate dump were relocated and placed under water to prevent oxidation.

A creek running through the site was dredged and redefined to handle major storm events while land that had been cleared of tailings was pressure washed, covered with clean sand, gravel and topsoil, and then seeded.

Cubic metres

By the time the project was completed in August 2012, more than 480,000 cubic metres of acid generating tailings and approximately 100,000 cubic metres of non-acid generating tailings were relocated under water.

More than 125,000 cubic metres of tailings and contaminated soil were removed from private lands and replaced with 200,000 cubic metres of sand, gravel and topsoil. Additionally, more than 140,000 tonnes of biosolids in the form of an organic waste sludge from a nearby paper mill were brought in and seeded to green up the site. Significantly less expensive than topsoil, the biosolids provide all the nutrients required to quickly establish vegetation and retain several times its dry weight in water, significantly reducing surface runoff.

During the construction period, some 86 million gallons of water was treated and discharged from the site and 2.7 kilometres of rock-lined channel was constructed to control erosion.

The Hollinger clean-up team, led by environment manager Laszlo Gotz, used wetland and transitional seed mixes, transplanted cattails to assist shoreline stabilization and planted more than 3,600 tree seedlings on higher ground.

The site was added to the city’s Industrial Mine Tour, a joint effort of Goldcorp and the Timmins Chamber of Commerce which allows residents and tourists to learn about the mining history of the region and the rehabilitation of tailings areas.

Students participating in school field trips contribute to the regreening of the site by planting trees. Beehives have been introduced to the site to promote pollination and plans are in the works to construct walking and bicycle trails for area residents.

The rehabilitation work took a little more than two years to complete and cost Goldcorp approximately $17 million.

This was the second Tom Peters Award won by Goldcorp’s Porcupine Gold Mines unit. Two years ago, it won the award for cleaning up a tailings impoundment area from the long abandoned Coniaurum Mine in Timmins.

The company’s next clean-up project in the city is the former producing Naybob Mine.

“One hundred years of mining left behind quite a legacy, so there’s no shortage of work,” said Gotz.

www.oma.on.ca

www.clra.ca

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