OTTAWA – Heavy dust clouds blowing from Cliffs Natural Resources’ abandoned Wabush iron ore mine into a small township in the eastern Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador is putting a focus on the liability of miners that seek creditor protection and walk away from assets.
Iron ore and coal miner Cliffs Natural Resources Inc announced in February 2014 it was shutting down its Wabush mine. This year it sought creditor protection for its Canadian assets.
The fate of the deserted mine is in limbo until it is either acquired by a rival or Cliffs is able to restructure and exit creditor protection.
Local residents say the abandoned site has many open pits, with drilling equipment, trucks and other equipment stranded on the site.
“Now that the company has gone into closure, it is very hard to maintain a relationship with them. From a corporate level, we have not heard anything from them in almost a year, if not longer,” said Colin Vardy, mayor of the town of Wabush. “I’m very disappointed. … They haven’t been paying their town taxes.”
Vardy said the company used to spray water on its tailings to control dust, but now that the mine has been closed dust is casting a pall around the town and causing health concerns.
The provincial environment department says air quality monitoring stations show that pollution levels are still at low risk levels, which may mean the dust is more of a nuisance than a health risk. Vardy was skeptical.
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