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/