The 2010 Tom Peters Memorial Reclamation Award was given to the Penokean Hills Field Naturalists (PHFN), the City of Elliot Lake and Rio Algom Limited for the work they did in converting the Milliken tailings management area (TMA) into a 182-ha wetland that includes marsh, bog and shoreline, as well as mature mixed forest.
The Milliken mine and mill operated from 1958 to 1964, producing 5.7 million tonnes of tailings to the Stanleigh TMA. During this period an estimated 76,500 tonnes of tailings were released to Sheriff Creek in an area later rehabilitated to form the Milliken TMA, This 17-ha area was remediated in the late 1970s. Drainage channels were installed on part of the tailings. The flat area that remained was covered by three feet of sandy gravel to form a ball field while the rest of the tailings area was flooded to form a wetland. The field was transformed in 1978 into an equestrian practice and competition field. In 1997, a berm was constructed at the outlet of the wetland to ensure the tailings remained saturated. In 2000, the berm and spillway were upgraded to safely cope with a probable maximum precipitation event.
In 1990, Erwin Meisner of the Penokean Hills Field Naturalists, asked Rio Algom whether it would consider transforming Sheriff Creek Park into the Sheriff Creek Bird Sanctuary. (The naturalists recognized the diversity of bird habitats that had evolved in the area.) With the support of Rio Algom, the PHFN secured support from the city and established a bird sanctuary at the park. In 1996, PHFN and Rio Algom entered into a “Stewardship Agreement” that identi¬fied operational objectives and prescribed activities for the sanctuary.
Walking trails through five distinct habitats were also established in the Sherriff Creek Sanctuary area. Between 1997 and 1998, trail development included the installation of causeway bridges and lookout blinds. In 2009, PHFN, Rio Algom and the city were granted funding by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities job creation program that enabled the partners to purchase and install a new bridge and boardwalk for the “Red Trail.”
Since the establishment of the Sheriff Creek Sanctuary, the PHFN has worked tirelessly on habitat-enhancement projects and signage to improve the sanctuary’s biodiversity and educational value. Today the Sherriff Creek Wildlife Sanctuary is home to many forms of wildlife, herbaceous plants, shrubs, and trees in an area that was once a sterile mine tailings disposal area. OMA