Residents of Long Lake will notice some extra activity around their shores in coming months — and next year, especially — but chances are they’ll welcome the temporary annoyance of noisy equipment over the lingering presence of a deadly poison.
A tender is going out this summer for reclamation work on the former Long Lake Gold site, which has been leaching arsenic into the southwest corner of the lake for years, with a contract to be awarded in the fall and the work apt to commence in earnest early in the new year.
Stephen Butcher, chair of Long Lake Stewardship, said it’s been a long wait for a remediation project to get the go-ahead but “we’re ecstatic it’s finally getting done.” It was Butcher’s stewardship group that first detected elevated levels of arsenic, which has been filtering down from old tailings deposits, through water testing done back in 2011.
Butcher said part of the delay in tackling the problem owes to an initial site analysis commissioned by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines having under-estimated the scope of the contamination.
“The initial study they did to get a ballpark figure was quite wrong,” he said. “It’s five times bigger than they thought, and five times the material has to be removed. So it kind of set them back a bit, while they re-evaluated how they contain that much stuff.”
A detailed engineering plan is now being completed and the MNDM is poised to put the work out to tender.
Cameron Ferguson, media advisor with the ministry, said the mine generated about 200,000 tonnes of tailings during its heyday in the early 1900s, and the goal of the MNDM is to rehabilitate the area “so contaminants leaving the site are reduced to acceptable levels.”
That means about 150,000 cubic metres of tailings and contaminated soil must be removed from the mine area and placed in a new impoundment facility, which will be constructed on site.
More challenging, said Ferguson, will be the removal of contaminated tailings from Long Lake itself and an adjacent wetland. Such reclamation work is “less common” and “will require specialist contractors and equipment,” he said.
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