Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada is in the final stage of public consultations in the Yukon for the estimated 15-year remediation of Faro Mine, once the largest open pit lead-zinc mine in the world.
The project will wrap up phase 2 public consultations by early July for what may be a $590-million project targeting 70 million tonnes of tailings and 320 million tonnes of waste rock left behind from valuable mineral processing at the south-central Yukon mine that spans three First Nations territories.
The property was abandoned in February 1998 by the Anvil Range Mining Corp. Watch video of a flight over the mine here.
Following public consultations, officials will submit a project remediation proposal to the Yukon Water Board and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, for work that aims to prevent the leaching of heavy metals and acid into the surrounding land and water, particularly addressing the elevated zinc levels in the North Fork of Rose Creek.
After review and consultation work in 2009, a remediation plan for the 25-square kilometre property began to take form. According to the federal government, the plan will include an upgrade for the property’s dams to ensure tailings stay in place; a re-sloping of waste rock piles; the installation of engineered soil covers over the tailings and waste rock; an upgrade of stream diversions; and finally, an upgrade of the site’s contaminated water collection and treatment system.
The federal government already signed a contract in 2016 with Alberta engineering company Parsons Corp.
On its website, the Yukon Conservation Society appears skeptical of many developments surrounding the proposed remediation of Faro Mine, just 15 km north of the Town of Faro in the Yukon Territory. The group poses questions such as: “Is the water flowing off the Faro Mine site meeting safe and acceptable standards?” and “Why is it costing so much (over a quarter billion dollars has been spent on site over the past decade)? What is the rest of it going to cost?” The society states that “it still finds it is difficult to get answers.”
In an op-ed published in the Yukon News during October 2016, the Yukon Conservation Society called for an audit of the entire project, insisting money had been wasted and nothing has been seen in the way of measurable results.
It is expected to take about 15 years to complete the Faro Mine remediation, followed by 20 to 25 years of testing, monitoring and any needed improvements to the site.
The Faro Mine remediation plan
Collect and treat contaminated water: The contaminated water management system will collect, store, transport and treat contaminated water. This system will help protect the downstream environment from contaminants found in seepage and groundwater.
Divert clean water: The clean water system will ensure that clean water is kept away from contaminated water. This will involve diversions and ditches, and may also include some settling or polishing ponds. Reducing the amount of clean water that becomes contaminated will be critical to reducing the volume of water and contaminants that need to be treated by the contaminated water management system.
Covers: Earth and rock covers will be placed across the site to keep ore, waste rock and tailings waste away from humans and wildlife. The covers will also reduce the infiltration of water into the affected areas and provide an area to support new vegetation growth. As with the diversion of clean water, reducing the volume of water and contaminants that are draining from the waste rock dumps and tailings areas will be important to decrease the amount of water needing to be treated.
Adaptive management: Adaptive management means being flexible. The Faro Mine site is complex and experience shows that it is impossible to foresee all problems that can arise. By monitoring the site, we can watch contaminant levels and take action if unacceptable levels of contaminants enter the downstream environment.
[Source: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada]