Cleanup cost about 10 times higher than original $25M estimate
The Canadian Press – The total price tag was estimated at under $25 million when the federal government agreed to pay for half the cleanup of a radioactive Cold-War-era uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan.
But a decade later, the expected cost for remediation of the remote Gunnar mine has swelled to about 10 times that and Ottawa isn’t offering any more money, even as the province starts this summer to remediate millions of tonnes of tailings and waste rock left when the mine closed in 1964.
“With Gunnar, just the size of the waste-rock piles and the tailings area alone, it’s fairly unavoidable that costs were significantly more,” said Cory Hughes, executive director of mineral policy at the Saskatchewan Ministry of the Economy. “You really have to be there to appreciate the size of the project.”
The Gunnar mine near Uranium City opened in 1955. The federal, Crown-operated Eldorado Mining and Refining Corp. supplied refined uranium yellowcake that was an essential ingredient for U.S. atomic weapons.
Over the course of its operation, the mine produced 4.4 million tonnes of tailings and 2.2 million tonnes of waste rock. It also left behind an open pit more than 100 metres deep. Canada officially stopped exporting uranium for weapons production in 1965. The Gunnar pit was flooded with water from Lake Athabasca when the mine closed and the tailings and waste rock were left to the elements. Dust blew in the wind and rain and runoff drained over the tailings and into the lake.
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