This summer, the mine’s owner, Newmont Mining Corporation, will start treating contaminated water from the site’s surface and underground workings using a newly-constructed water treatment plant. The water will be treated to remove various metals, including arsenic, before being released into the environment.
Newmont is currently scheduling 50 years of continuing water treatment, plus other monitoring activities.
But a consultant to Newmont, Golder Associates, told the company in 2009 that getting rid of arsenic can take anywhere from 50 to 400 years.
Kevin O’Reilly, an environmentalist who lives close to the clean-up site, says that discrepancy worries him.
He wants to see the security deposit Newmont pays to the N.W.T. government increased to reflect the potentially larger period of water treatment suggested by Golder.
“The issue is, is the company going to be around 400 years from now?” says O’Reilly.
“We want to make sure that the money that’s required to run that treatment plant for as long as it’s needed is set aside in a secure form so that the taxpayers don’t have to pick up the cost. I don’t see that happening right now.”
The territorial government has so far extracted a security deposit of just under $12 million from Newmont. The money is meant to cover clean-up costs should Newmont prove unable to finish the work in the future. The figure has been revised on an annual basis.
Newmont would not comment on O’Reilly’s concern, offering only this brief statement: “[We’re] committed to meeting the terms and conditions stipulated in our current, and any subsequent, water licences issued for the Con Mine property.”
But last summer, the company said it would consider extending the treatment period to 100 years.
‘Not a moneymaker’
Mining at Con Mine ceased in 2003. Newmont was saddled with the property when it purchased all the holdings of Miramar Mining Corporation in 2007.
“This is not a moneymaker,” says O’Reilly of Con Mine. “If they [Newmont] don’t have to spend money on doing reclamation, they’re not going to.”
Besides his concerns about water treatment, O’Reilly says Newmont isn’t adequately covering all the site’s tailings with rock cover.
“People are going to get in here with ATVs and motor bikes and rip this stuff all up,” he says.
A public meeting to discuss the latest version of Newmont’s closure plan and the next revision to its security will be held next Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the office of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board. O’Reilly says he’ll be there.
The cost to clean up Yellowknife’s other polluted gold site, the abandoned Giant Mine, is currently pegged at more than $900 million by the federal government.
Source: CBC News