The National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Advisory Committee was established by Mines Ministers in September 2001 to move forward in addressing the problems associated with abandoned and orphaned mines in Canada. A subgroup of this committee, addressing the issues of community involvement, has the following objective:
The Task Force commissioned a preliminary study to characterize key issues and identify potential case studies, and subsequently, a second report that would evaluate lessons learned on community involvement Deloro Mine (Ontario); Giant Mine (Northwest Territories); Mount Washington (British Columbia), and a fourth study that is in progress. As well, community involvement processes at contaminated sites in the us were investigated.
Community contacts for each site were chosen to reflect a diversity of community perspectives. Interviews were conducted with a representative selection of the community and governments. Questions focused on the following categories: Site Background; Community Involvement Process; Community Involvement in Site Remediation and Related Work; and Long-Term Outlook. A shorter survey was used with additional community members to gain a sense of the general public’s perception of the remediation process. Summary and analysis of the interviews and surveys were without attribution in order to maintain confidentiality of those interviewed. The research on us experiences with community involvement included a review of the us Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Superfund Community Involvement Program and public participation initiatives at other contaminated sites in the country. A literature review of relevant web sites, reports, documents, media, and academic papers was completed for both the case studies and the us research.
Lessons learned were evaluated based on key factors that contribute to effective communication and decision-making, such as trust and respect, accountability, transparency, technical resources, training, capacity building, facilitation, and equity.
Deloro, Ontario: A succession of mining, smelting, chemical and pesticide production, over a period of 100 years, has left the area around Deloro (and downstream) contaminated with metals, radioactive materials, PCBs, bulk fuel and chemicals. The Care Delivery Network Project asserts that cancer rates and birth abnormalities in the area are high in Hastings County. In 1979, the site was abandoned following a clean-up order from Ontario Ministry of Energy and Environment (MOEE), leaving MOEE as the manager of the site.
There have been four court cases related to the site. In one, a community member was compensated for the death of her husband (lung cancer); in the second, a Class action suit was initiated for $55 million in damages against MOEE, MNDM, Ministry of Health, Attorney General of Canada, Canada Eldor Inc., Atomic Energy Control Board, BOC Canada Ltd. (ongoing); and in the third, a charge was made against the Ontario government for allowing damage to fish habitat. This case ended in 2001, and MOEE was found to have demonstrated due diligence during the timeframe of the charges. Following this decision, the fourth case, which charged the Ontario government for "unlawfully discharging/permitting the discharge of a contaminant (radon) into the natural environment" was withdrawn since the problem pre-dated MOEE involvement.
Public pressure has been exerted to have the site cleaned up; to receive compensation for damages to health and property value; and to have a more transparent process for community involvement in decisions made about remediation of Deloro. In 1997, a Public Liaison Committee was established by MOEE (in conjunction with two government technical committees), with MOEE staff serving as the committee chair. This structure has been perceived as a conflict-of-interest, as MOEE is also responsible for the site remediation. Health studies and environmental monitoring studies have been met with controversy, as well.
Giant Mine, Northwest Territories: The Giant Mine in Yellowknife, NWT, began producing gold in 1948, and with it, arsenic trioxide dust. Since the 1950s, tonnes of the dust have been stored in underground chambers on the mine site, adjacent to Great Slave Lake. Yellowknife and the surrounding area have elevated levels of arsenic that some claim is from the years of gold roasting, which sent arsenic and sulphur dioxide up the stack and over the surrounding land.
When Royal Oak Mines was declared insolvent in 1999, the Royal Oak Project Team (and subsequently the Giant Mine Project Team) was established to manage the properties abandoned by Royal Oak. The Team has been looking at remediation possibilities for the arsenic and the mine site, and is now in the process of consulting the public on the options. Some members of the public, however, perceive that it was included rather late in the process, and this has led to some mistrust between the community and the government.
The Tsolum River Task Force was formed with the overall goal to “restore the Tsolum River watershed to historic levels of health and productivity.” The Task Force model was extremely effective in bringing together all stakeholders to discuss issues in and solutions for problems in the Tsolum River watershed. The Task Force included members from different levels of government (provincial and federal), community environmental organizations, and the mining, fishing and forestry industries.
Before the Task Force’s funding ran out, it was highly effective in restoring fish habitat, monitoring water flows, and mapping the watershed. It was less successful in getting remediation work done at the mine site, and as such, copper levels remain elevated in the river.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM CANADIAN AND us EXAMPLES
This study revealed a number of lessons, common to the Canadian and us case studies, related to community involvement in the remediation of contaminated sites. The following is a selection of the key lessons:
Benefits of Community Involvement
Barriers to Community Involvement
Overcoming Barriers to Community Involvement
Lessons Related to Formal Community Involvement Processes
Last updated: 2003-09-26
© National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI) 2004