Goldcorp wins reclamation award for transforming Timmins old mine tailings into honey

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province. 

Ontario Mining Association member Goldcorp has won the Tom Peters Memorial Mine Reclamation Award for its work on the Coniaurum property in Timmins.  The company earned this prestigious honour for cleaning up and transforming an old mine site and tailings area into flourishing habitat for the bears and the bees.  The award was presented last week at the  fourth annual CLRA-OMA Mine Reclamation Symposium, which is incorporated into the “Mining and Environment Conference” in Sudbury.

The Coniaurum site is located just east of downtown Timmins.  Mining operations took place from 1913 to 1961.  The Coniaurum mine produced 1.1 million ounces of gold from 4.5 million tonnes of ore and its mill operated from 1928 to 1960.  The site was virtually abandoned in 1961 following a serious storm, which breached tailings containment dams and caused discharge problems.

In 2002, Goldcorp’s Porcupine Gold Mines took possession of the property and began rehabilitation planning.  Reclamation activities began on the Coniaurum tailings management area, which was a 58 hectare impound with varying tailings depths from 6.1 to 13.3 metres, in 2005. Work was carried out to stabilize existing erosion channels, depression areas were filled in and biosolids were applied and topped with wild seed mix to promote vegetation growth.  Erosion gullies were graded to uniform slopes, dams were upgraded along with the sedimentation pond and the discharge channel was improved.  

The results of this environmental work have stabilized the site, stopped suspended solids from the tailings area entering the Porcupine River and promoted other uses of the property.  The use of biosolids as a cover and wild grasses promoted a self-sustaining environment, which encouraged the growth of other natural grass, shrub and tree species.

This in turn has attracted wildlife and several black bears now reside and feed on the site.  Since 2008, honey bees were established on the property to promote additional pollination and plant development.  This in turn has spawned into a greater number of healthy bee colonies and a budding honey industry.  The company has formed a partnership with a local apiculturist who is engaged in the raising and caring of bees for commercial and agricultural purposes. 

Goldcorp has taken the Coniaurum rehabilitation project one step further.  Since 2008, educational tours have been carried out on the site to show how mine tailings can be successfully converted into a green environment and flourishing habitat.  The company also works with the local Aboriginal community to promote applying traditional knowledge and practices to modern rehabilitation techniques. 

This important industry environmental award was launched in 2008 by the Ontario Mining Association in cooperation with the Canadian Land Reclamation Association (CLRA) and the Ministry of Northern Development Mines and Forestry, with financial support from Vale.  The purpose of the program is to encourage the pursuit of excellence in mine reclamation and to recognize and promote outstanding achievements in mine reclamation in Ontario’s mining industry, the environmental community and broader public.

Mr. Peters died in 2007.  He enjoyed a lengthy and successful career at Vale’s predecessor company Inco where he led the company’s tailings revegetation and land reclamation programs.  He played a major role in the regreening of Sudbury and was awarded a honourary degree from Laurentian University in recognition of that significant contribution.

Previous winners of the Tom Peters memorial award have been the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines for work on the Kam Kotia property near Timmins in 2008 and Vale for its reclamation activities on the Whistle Mine site north of Sudbury in 2009.  In 2010, the award was captured by the Penokean Hills Field Naturalists, the City of Elliot Lake and Rio Algom Limited.  They worked together to convert the Milliken tailings management area into a wetland and mature mixed forest.

Reclamation in many ways is the most important phase of the mining process.  Goldcorp at Coniaurum has demonstrated that modern “alchemy” can turn old mine tailings into honey for your toast.  Sweet!  

July 6, 2011

Canada’s refining and smelting industry has reduced its share of total Canadian energy use from 0.8% to 0.55% from 1990 to 2008.

The refining and smelting sector on a national level has trimmed its share of total Canadian greenhosue gas emissions from 1% to 0.5% over the same period.