By MAGGIE RIOPELLE
The government is cleaning up abandoned mines, including a number of sites in Timmins.
This year the government has committed $6 million to the former Kam Kotia Mine site, which includes $2 million that was allocated to year three work, which will be completed in this fiscal year.
“For years this environmental disaster was sitting here and the government was passing it off,” says Timmins Mayor Jamie Lim. “No one was willing to take responsibility. Finally the ministry recognized that they could no longer pass the buck.”
Minister Jim Wilson, Northern Development and Mines, was in Timmins in January to announce the government’s $10-million final installment of the $27-million four-year Abandoned Mines Rehabilitation program.
Without funds from the program, local residents would still be refering to the Little Kamiskotia River as the “Blood Red River.” Overrun with pollutants and high metal concentration, the spring runoff would bring with it mine tailings that would seep into the river.
Years of damage, since closure of the mine in the 70s, are evident as the soil is burnt orange, the water is red, and the area is void of vegetation and wildlife.
Funds from the program have allowed for the development of a lime treatment plant at the former copper/zinc mine site. There are over six million tonnes of mine tailings on the site that will be relocated to a new containment unit and treated.
“With support from this program, the important rehabilitation work that began at Kam Kotia last year is moving ahead on schedule and is the main focus of fourth-year activities,” says Minister Wilson.
The Kam Kotia cleanup is expected to cost approximately $40 million. As of March this year, the government will have contributed $14 million to the project, far short of the required funds.
“The government is committed to returning mines to a natural state,” adds Minister Wilson. “I’m glad that this government is leading the way in Canada when it comes to addressing physical hazards and environmental contamination at former mine sites (on Crown land). But the province’s $27-million Abandoned Mine Rehabilitation program is just a down payment. We need to tell people of the south that this work is important. This is a priority. We need you to write so we can get more money.”
The minister says it could take up to $300 million to rehabilitate the known 6,000 abandoned mine sites on Crown land within Ontario.
In order to avoid future environmental disasters such as Kam Kotia, in 1991 the government amended the Mining Act, which requires companies submit a closure plan and set aside funds to return the site to its natural state.
Funds were also provided to two other mine projects in Timmins. Porcupine Joint Venture (formerly Kinross) received $650,000 for ongoing work at the former Hollinger and McIntyre Mines properties that have been destroyed by sinkholes. The funds will be used to install instruments to monitor mine workings along Hwy 101 and 655.