Development restrictions around old mine site ‘unacceptable,’ says Pickle Lake mayor (CBC News Thunder Bay – May 31, 2016)

The mayor of Pickle Lake, Ont., says the future of his town is being threatened by development restrictions imposed by the province, related to an abandoned mine site. Development has long been restricted in some areas because of contaminated tailings containing arsenic, left behind by the Central Patricia Mine, which closed in the early 50s, said Mayor Karl Hopf.

But the draft of a new official plan for the township would further block new development within a thousand metres of a mine headframe (the structure built above a mine shaft), he said.

“Now, the old headframe from 1952 is roughly 50 metres off our main highway corridor that goes to our commercial and industrial area,” he said, adding that about 700 acres of land could be included, and the province would also put further conditions on development on land bordering the restricted area.

“So they’ve basically tied up the commercial industrial corridor,” he said. “That’s just unacceptable to us.” Potential future developments in the area related to a proposed road to the Ring of Fire mining development, could also be jeopardized, said Hopf.

Hopf said he will not sign the new official plan for the township, until his concerns are addressed.

According to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, the 1,000 metre setback is “not an outright restriction of development,” but it does require consultation with the Ministry to decide what studies must be done to determine whether development is safe.

‘They let those mines walk away’

Hopf said he has met with representatives of several government ministries about his concerns.

Cleaning up contaminated land to make it suitable for development would take millions of dollars, but he said another problem is the fact that the tailings areas have never been properly surveyed.

He is asking the province to survey the tailings areas so that they know just how much land is contaminated, and also to assess the area for any underground problems.

“The bottom line is this. [The province] let those mines walk away back in those days. And I’m not complaining — that’s the way it was.”

“But the fact of the matter is, there’s no way, shape or form that this is now a municipal problem to solve for millions and millions of dollars, otherwise, they basically make sure our town is going to die.”

Hopf said the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines has indicated that they will fund a study to identify areas of concern, but that it will take several years to get off the ground.

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