Mine Closure: Who Pays Giant Costs? – by Jack Caldwell (I Think Mining.com – June 25, 2013)


At this link is my EduMine course on Mine Closure: The Basics of Success. One issue I do not address in the course is a looming tendency, namely should we tax existing mines to pay for closure of old mines?

This evening in a Vancouver pub, I drank the evening away with friends of forty and more years vintage. We have all been involved in mining for that many years and have seen our share of closed mines and mines that will never be closed. We drifted inexorably to the Giant Mine in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada.

Here is what I read today about the closure of that mine:

“A northern review board has given its conditional stamp of approval to a federal cleanup plan for an abandoned gold mine near Yellowknife.

The main environmental hazard at Giant Mine is the 237,000 tonnes of highly toxic arsenic trioxide dust stored in 15 underground chambers — there’s enough to kill every person in the world. The arsenic trioxide is a byproduct from decades of gold mining.

The mine is close to the shores of pristine Great Slave Lake. Environmentalists and Yellowknife residents alike are worried the dust could leach into the lake. The site is one of the most contaminated in the country, and it will cost close to $1 billion to clean up.

The federal government plans to freeze the arsenic in place, saying it is too difficult to remove all of the toxic dust. The plan is to use a method similar to how ice rinks are kept frozen — carbon dioxide would be circulated through pipes to keep the dust frozen underground.

In a 233-page report released today, the Mackenzie Valley Review Board says it will recommend the plan be approved as long as 27 conditions are met, including:

  • shortening the timeframe for dealing with the underground arsenic from perpetuity to 100 years.
  • facilitating ongoing research in emerging technologies for a permanent solution.
  • requiring independent reviews of the project every 20 years to evaluate its effectiveness and decide if a better approach can be identified.
  • treat water on site so that it will be at drinking water standards when it is released.
  • suggestions for health monitoring in Yellowknife and nearby Dene communities.
  • divert Baker Creek away from the mine.
  • create an independent group to oversee the federal government’s work.

The board says the measures are required to address the significant adverse environmental impacts and public concern associated with the cleanup. The federal government’s plan to freeze the arsenic in place will go ahead, but the review board says it must be done in a way that the arsenic can be removed later if a better alternative comes up. It will fall to the federal government to implement most of the measures. It took over responsibility for the cleanup in 1999, when the last owner of the mine went bankrupt.”

The point is that forever, the Canadian taxpayer will spend well over one billion dollars to keep this “closed” mine under control. If we, as taxpayers had had the choice, would we have ever approved the opening of this mine? I suppose the answer is NO.

For the rest of this blog posting, click here: http://ithinkmining.com/2013/06/25/mine-closure-who-pays-giant-costs/

One Response to Mine Closure: Who Pays Giant Costs? – by Jack Caldwell (I Think Mining.com – June 25, 2013)

  1. ProspHector June 26, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    Greetings :
    Why all the gloom and doom and special interest group forming propoganda. The way I see it, the Giant mine has five years world production of arsenic trioxide sitting in reserves. Instead of spoon feeding schist to the sheeple, find out who is buying the 50 thousand tons a year and start talking deal. I guess your glass is always half empty when your view is through schist colored glasses.

    way I see it anyway – ProspHector

    Quoted from Wikipedia……….
    Arsenic trioxide is the inorganic compound with the formula As2O3. This commercially important oxide of arsenic is the main precursor to other arsenic compounds, including organoarsenic compounds.

    Approximately 50,000 tonnes are produced annually. Many applications are controversial given the high toxicity of arsenic compounds.

    Large scale applications include its use as a precursor to forestry products, in colorless glass production, and in electronics. Being the main compound of arsenic, the trioxide is the precursor to elemental arsenic, arsenic alloys, and arsenide semiconductors. Organoarsenic compounds, e.g. feed additives (Roxarsone) and pharmaceuticals (Neosalvarsan), are derived from arsenic trioxide. Bulk arsenic-based compounds sodium arsenite and sodium cacodylate are derived from the trioxide.

    A variety of applications exploit arsenic’s toxicity, including the use of the oxide as a wood preservative. Copper arsenates, which are derived from arsenic trioxide, are used on a large scale as a wood preservative in the US and Malaysia, but such materials are banned in many parts of the world. This practice remains controversial.[3] In combination with copper(II) acetate arsenic trioxide gives the vibrant pigment known as paris green used in paints and as a rodenticide. This application has been discontinued.

    Despite the well known toxicity of arsenic, arsenic trioxide has long been of biomedical interest, dating to traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as Pi Shuang and is still used to treat cancer and other conditions, and to homeopathy, where it is called arsenicum album. Some discredited patent medicines, e.g., Fowler’s solution, contained derivatives of arsenic oxide. Arsenic trioxide under the trade name Trisenox (manufacturer: Cephalon) is a chemotheraputic agent of idiopathic function used to treat leukemia that is unresponsive to “first line” agents. It is suspected that arsenic trioxide induces cancer cells to undergo apoptosis. Due to the toxic nature of arsenic, this drug carries significant risks.
    The combination therapy of arsenic trioxide and all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of certain leukemias.
    Arsenic trioxide also appears to be a promising therapeutic agent for autoimmune diseases.