It took two years to develop approach to clean up Long Lake
After a two-year delay, a new plan has been put forward for arsenic cleanup at Long Lake that is expected to have less impact on area residents.
“Staff (members) have been working very hard behind the scenes to address the concerns that were raised two years ago,” said Brian McMahon, director of mine rehabilitation with the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines.
“We didn’t think ourselves that it would take so long to get to this stage, but I think the result is we’re going to have a much better approach for cleanup at Long Lake.”
The initial plan for rehabilitating an old gold-mining site and removing contaminants from the water would have involved significant truck traffic along the south shore of the lake, as well as a steep bill for road improvements.
Some residents balked at the inconveniences this would create and a formal complaint was lodged. In turn, the ministry was required to revisit its proposal.
After considering four other options, the ministry is now proposing to source aggregate from two pits — a new one it will create on Crown land close to the project area, and an existing one at Round Lake on Atikameksheng Anishnawbek (Whitefish Lake) property — thereby minimizing the amount of haulage that would occur on residential roads, while providing an economic opportunity for the First Nation.
“Not much has changed in regard to the remediation approach,” said Eric Cobb, environmental planner with ENDM. “The goal is still to lower arsenic in the south basin of Long Lake to below drinking water standards, by minimizing the migration of arsenic and other contaminants from impacted soils and tailings from the mine into the lake.”
A new impoundment structure will be built to hold the tailings, he said, then capped to ensure none of the contaminants can leach out.
Tailings will be removed from Luke Creek, a wetland, and a portion of Long Lake itself, but only where there is less than two metres of water cover.
In areas where tailings are more deeply submerged, the material is considered “stable,” said Cobb, and will not produce acidity or leach contaminants.
Access to the project site can be gained by roads along the south shore of Long Lake, although there is also a historical mine road through Atikameksheng First Nation that could potentially be utilized, said Cobb.
Another route, coming off the Killarney highway, was explored by the ministry, but that would be costliest option, said Cobb, since a lot of road-building work would be required. This option would also have “a high impact on fish and wildlife because it would be a new footprint and involve a number of water crossings,” he noted.
The ministry considered sourcing all of the aggregate it will require from its new Crown land pit, but that, too, would have a significant impact on wildlife, as the pit “would have to be almost as big as the mine site,” said Cobb.
Supplementing this supply with aggregate from the Atikameksheng pit is felt to be the best option, he said, as it would reduce environmental impacts, spare residents inconvenience and provide jobs and revenue for the First Nation.
“It reduces haul traffic up to 89 per cent, has low maintenance costs, and provides economic benefit to Atikameksheng,” he said. “Out of all the alternatives, there are impacts, but most of them are moderate and low.”
Cobb said the ministry pit would be developed “just north of the mine site, but the majority of the aggregate is proposed to come from the Round Lake pit.”
The revised plan is now subject to a 45-day review period, and anyone with concerns is welcome to comment up until Nov. 21.
Documentation for the proposed project is available online at tinyurl.com/y6tg2mz8.
You can also go through the Environmental Registry at ero.ontario.ca, referencing ERO #019-0488.
To receive additional information, inspect the project file or submit new concerns, residents are asked to contact Eric Cobb by phone at 705-561-0630, or by email at email@example.com.