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Pam Snow
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Two former mines on Baie Verte Peninsula have been left with environmentally unfriendly legacy

There's plenty of work to be done at two former mine sites on the Baie Verte Peninsula. Unfortunately, none of that work involves mining.

Instead, there are deteriorating buildings to be demolished and old fuel tanks and contaminated soil to be removed.

"Both sites were either abandoned because of depleted reserves or economic reasons," said Alex Smith of the Department of Natural Resources, who provided an update on the former Baie Verte asbestos mine and the consolidated Rambler copper mine sites during the Baie Verte Mining Conference June 12-13.

Buildings like this will be next to come down at two of the former mine sites on the Baie Verte Peninsula. Transcontinental Media photo

Baie Verte -

There's plenty of work to be done at two former mine sites on the Baie Verte Peninsula. Unfortunately, none of that work involves mining.

Instead, there are deteriorating buildings to be demolished and old fuel tanks and contaminated soil to be removed.

"Both sites were either abandoned because of depleted reserves or economic reasons," said Alex Smith of the Department of Natural Resources, who provided an update on the former Baie Verte asbestos mine and the consolidated Rambler copper mine sites during the Baie Verte Mining Conference June 12-13.

"Under legislation at the time, there was no requirement for cleanup by owners."

The mines were operating at their peak in the 1960s and 1970s.

The cleanup is expected to take three years and to cost $10 million.

Smith said there are many safety and environmental issues at each site that need to be addressed.

"The infrastructure at the locations are falling apart," he said. "At the Baie Verte mine there is over 190 million tonnes of waste rock, and 47 million tonnes of tailings were produced. At Rambler, 3.8 million tonnes of acid-generating sulphide tailings remain on site."

This year and next, the plan is to complete demolition at the Baie Verte mine, including tearing down the dry rock storage area, air quality monitoring, slope stability and water sampling.

The primary concern is the presence of asbestos in waste rock, tailings and in buildings at the site.

At the former Rambler mine site there are traces of asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and elevated levels of metals in the soil and water, with two areas showing levels of cyanide. There is also petroleum contamination of soil and acid generation, which leaches metals from tailings and has affected South Brook, with high metal concentrations found in the water.

There are no communities downstream from South Brook, and Natural Resources believes there is no threat to human health, although unstable buildings with open pits and tailings can pose safety hazards for cleanup crews.

The cleanup at the Rambler site will include removing most structures, finding remedies for contaminated soil, removing fuel tanks and continued water sampling.

Fuel storage tanks, lead, mercury paints and PCBs are contaminating the soil at each site.

"There is an emphasis right now on the environmental, and taking care of the structures," said Smith.

"This includes the disposal of chemicals and re-agents at the Rambler site, and capping and fencing of mine openings was completed at Rambler this past year."

After a slope-stability assessment, Highway 410 was found to be stable along the Baie Verte mines' open pit towards Fleur De Lys, Smith said.

The department then turned its focus to air-quality testing.

"Air quality has always been a concern around the town of Baie Verte," he said. "The air has been tested twice since the mine was operating, and in 2006. We have been collecting air-quality data, with one monitoring station at the site and one on top of the town hall. The data we have collected so far, there has been no issue."

Baie Verte-Springdale MHA Kevin Pollard has visited both sites and seen first-hand why many people have environmental and safety concerns.

"When I first went there, I was both dismayed and appalled the companies could have left the properties in such disarray," said Pollard.

"But every party involved is taking more responsibility for the properties, and I'm pleased something is being done."

New legislation requires mining companies to provide financial proof that they can handle any liabilities that may occur after the company leaves a particular area, or while it is operating.

Pollard said he is relieved that situations like this won't happen again.

Smith said his department wants unauthorized people to stay away from both former mines.

"There are many dangers on the property that may injure or even kill someone if they were to go pass the gate, and we don't want that happening," he said.

The Terra Nova mine, below the Miner's Museum in Baie Verte, will also be closely monitored after a slight cave-in of a shaft wall last year.

A fence was quickly put in place to protect the public, but the slope will be further assessed in the coming year.

The Nor'wester

Organizations: Rambler, Department of Natural Resources, Museum in Baie Verte

Geographic location: Baie Verte, South Brook, Fleur De Lys Terra Nova

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Recent comments

  • Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    'Pollard said he is relieved that situations like this won't happen again.'

    Guess again - where there's a will, there's a way. Especially if it costs money.

    I hope ValeInco at Sandy Pond are contributing to a trust fund for clean up in case they disappear overnight or go into bankruptcy protection.

    All of Sandy Pond's tailings (acids and toxins) will flow all the way down into the ocean through massive swaths of marshes and tributaries. The gov't has allowed Sandy Pond to become sterile and have even expropriated private property in the area to protect the health of those citizens. What does that tell you ?

    We ain't seen nothin' yet.

  • Brad
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    This stuff will look petty once Vale Inco are finished. Here we are 30-40 years after all of these mining companies have ceased to exist, but we are still using their technology to contain tailings. This whole island is becoming a dumping ground for the world, but I guess we get a few jobs, and there will be alot more jobs doing environmental remediation when this is all over. I guess they could always take care of the problems like they with ERCO in Long Harbour, just bury it, plant some pretty grass on it, and make it someone elses problem in the future. Enjoy your poison.

  • Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    'Pollard said he is relieved that situations like this won't happen again.'

    Guess again - where there's a will, there's a way. Especially if it costs money.

    I hope ValeInco at Sandy Pond are contributing to a trust fund for clean up in case they disappear overnight or go into bankruptcy protection.

    All of Sandy Pond's tailings (acids and toxins) will flow all the way down into the ocean through massive swaths of marshes and tributaries. The gov't has allowed Sandy Pond to become sterile and have even expropriated private property in the area to protect the health of those citizens. What does that tell you ?

    We ain't seen nothin' yet.

  • Brad
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    This stuff will look petty once Vale Inco are finished. Here we are 30-40 years after all of these mining companies have ceased to exist, but we are still using their technology to contain tailings. This whole island is becoming a dumping ground for the world, but I guess we get a few jobs, and there will be alot more jobs doing environmental remediation when this is all over. I guess they could always take care of the problems like they with ERCO in Long Harbour, just bury it, plant some pretty grass on it, and make it someone elses problem in the future. Enjoy your poison.