The creation of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (1972) and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (1985) marked the beginning of environmental monitoring of mining projects. Today, the mining companies of the Red Lake camp are committed to reducing their environmental impact, employing best practices and aiming to be better than industry standards.
Major Historic Mining Issues
Contemporary Environmental Practices
- Tailings/waste management has significantly improved and today companies treat tailings before they leave the mill. Solids are used as backfill, while tailings ponds are used to treat tailings water and safely discharge them. To assist with the continued rehabilitation efforts with Balmer Lake, Goldcorp utilizes a wetland to clean the water further before it enters the lake.
- The autoclave replaced the roaster, utilizing high pressure and heat to oxidize ore for recovery. Any arsenic present is combined with iron to produce a stable compound, which discharges into a tailings pond. Autoclaves can also be used to stabilize arsenic-trioxide dust for safer long-term storage.
- Mine closure plans and reclamation became part of the Ontario Mining Act in 1990, reducing the lasting environmental footprint left by mining. Closure plans detail facility and infrastructure removal as well as the land restoration that will happen when the project closes. Companies have to pay a reclamation bond or financial assurance payment to ensure that money is available for reclamation. The Crown holds the bond in trust and guarantees that closure plans are carried out, even if the company faces financial issues. Companies reclaim the bond after all restoration has been completed.
- New environmental standards require mines to categorize mine waste into two categories: i) non-acidic or ii) potential acidic generating. The risk for contamination, however, means that even non-acidic waste is not a desirable purchase as landfill. Instead, waste is either used on mine property or is used as backfill in the mine after closure.