Minings Pollution Legacy

The Legacy of
Acid Mine Drainage
environmental problem and its greatest liability,
especially to our waterways. An acid-generating
mine has the potential for long-term, devastating
impacts on rivers, streams and aquatic life,
becoming in effect a “perpetual pollution
At the abandoned Mount Washington mine
on Vancouver Island, open pits of sulphide bearing
pyrite ore lie exposed to the elements,
along with 130,000 tonnes of waste rock. The sulphide
sulphur in the ore continually reacts with
air and water to form sulphuric acid, which leaches
out the heavy metals, especially copper. This
toxic copper leachate passes into Pyrrhotite
Creek, then Murex Creek and from there into the
whole Tsolum river watershed.
“Copper is the dreaded enemy of young
salmonids,” says Father Brandt, a local activist,
fisherman, and director of the Steelhead
Society. “It is a scientific fact that the amount of
copper that finds its way yearly into the Tsolum
watersheds kills young salmon and deters adult
salmon escaping back to the river to spawn.”
In the US, AMD and other toxins from
abandoned mines have polluted 180,000 acres
of reservoirs and lakes and 12,000 miles of
streams and rivers.(8) It has been estimated that
cleaning up these polluted waterways will
cost US taxpayers between $32 billion and
$72 billion.(9)
In Canada, there are an estimated 351 millions
tonnes of waste rock, 510 million tonnes
of sulphide tailings, and more than 55 million
tonnes of other mining sources which have the
potential to cause AMD.(10) Cleanup at existing
acid-generating mines in Canada will cost
between $2 billion and $5 billion.(11)
Not only is AMD treatment and collection
very costly to the environment, it is a big bill for
industry. According to T.D. Pearse Resource
Consulting, “Site stabilization costs can be as high
as $410,000 per hectare.”(12) The U.S. Bureau of
Mines estimates that the US industry spends over
$1 million each day to treat acidic mine water.(13)
Unfortunately, the province of BC is prominent
on maps identifying Canada’s AMD pollution
sites. The Mount Washington mine is only
one of 25 mines (operating, closed and abandoned)
in BC that are currently acid-generating,
while at least 17 other sites have been identified
as potentially acid-generating.14 See map page 13.
By 1994, The BC State of the Environment
Report noted that there were an estimated 240
million tonnes of acid-generating waste rock
and 72 million tonnes of acid-generating mine
tailings in the province. Each year, the stockpile
of acidic and heavy metal-generating tailings
and waste rock from mining in the province
grows by 25 million tonnes.15
Based on the history of Acid Mine Drainage
conservationists fear that several new and proposed
mining developments with AMD potential
could have significant negative impacts on
BC’s waterways and fisheries, most notably

Redfern Resources’ Tulsequah Chief copper
mine on the Taku River

 Taseko Mines’ Fish Lake/Prosperity Gold
project in the Chilcotin area, ¥

Princeton Mining’s Huckleberry copper
and gold mine ¥

Royal Oak’s Kemess South copper and gold
mine near the Finlay River by Mackenzie ¥

American Bullion’s Red Chris copper mine
south of the Spatsizi River,

Manalta Coal Ltd’s proposed open-pit Telkwa
mine near Smithers’ Telkwa River and
Bulkley River. ¥

International Skyline’s Bronson Slope Mine
on the Lower Iskut River

When the mining industry argues that
new mining development is “essential” to our
way of life, it tends to understate the fact that
we could and should achieve many of our metals
needs through better re-use and recycling
of existing metal products. When it comes to
“precious metals” such as gold and diamonds,
the end use poses even more questions about
justifications for the ecological costs exacted.
Some 83 per cent of the 3,200 tonnes of gold
refined throughout the world in 1996 was used
for jewellery.16
Once it starts, AMD can effectively sterilize an
entire water system for generations to come —
turning it into a biological wasteland and a huge
economic burden.

8 Robert Kleinman, Acid Mine Drainage: US Bureau of Mines Researches
Control Methods for Coal and Metal Mines, US Bureau of Mines, July
9 Jessica Speart, “A Lust for Gold,” Mother Jones (Jan-Feb 1995), p.60
10 Government of Canada, ibid, pp. 10-11
11 Financial Post, November 17, 1994
12 T.D. Pearse Resource Consulting, Mining and the Environment,
March 1996, p. 14.
13 Robert Kleinman, ibid.

14 Bill Price and John Errington, ibid, pp. 68-69
15 BC State of the Environment Report 1993, Government of BC,
Victoria, 1994, p. 25
16 Gilles Coutrurier, Canadian Minerals Yearbook 1995, Natural
Resources Canada, Ottawa 1996 p.28.13


Anonymous said...

And please do not forget to read Jared Diamond's COLLAPSE and the mining disasters in Montana. it seems mine companies and politicians are in bed together for a 'quickie'. Construct a mine, take the profit, shut the mine down and leave the taxpayers to pick up the clean up bills that far exceed the value the mine could ever hope to produce. Mines are for quick fortune hunters who 'rape' the environment and and run. And the Campbell government has let this crowd loose in BC. What a shame.

John Meech said...

Although much of what you state here truthfully represents the historical record, it does not represent how mining companies today operate. when I graduated in Mineral Processing in 1970, the term "acid rock drainage" did not even exist. Today,all companies in B.C. have to have a closure plan in place before they commence mining. That closure plan must have funds in place to guarantee that the land will be converted back into productive use and ARD will not contaminate the environment post-mining.

As to legacy mine sites, many of the most dangerous ones are being dealt with - Britannia Beach being one of these. The Tesulquah Cheif mine project in fact, if it is permitted to go ahead, will remediate waste dumps from past mining activity at the site.

If we don't allow mining in B.C. then what we are really doing is shifting mining activities to other parts of the world who don't mine ethically or environmentally. You all have to start taking a more holistic approach as the problems and issues are far more complicated that simply stopping all mining here in B.C.

priscilla judd said...

I would like you to look at the work of Dr.Ron Lavigne - someone who could help clean up some of the problems from mining.

Dr;Lavigne has offered to come to BC and help us devlop the skills to buld these all natural zero carbon footprint waste water solutions - I am just a person without the skills to get support for getting him here.

Why haven't you eard of this before?

Because he is busy cleaning up the thrd world and he doesn't need to advertise.

If we can get going the costs are managable - please check it out and help me to get the Man here and let's turn your blog into a campaing to clean up.

The amout of money spent by environmental groups doing studies and proving harm would be far better spent in cleaning up.

How good is that?

hope to hear from you:
contact AT priscillajudd.ca

Vegetated Sand Beds for primary waste treatment

cleaning up gold mine cyanide for $250,000 US


I look forward to working with you
Priscilla Judd