$1.1 million clean-up for abandoned Calumet mine

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A portion of the large pile of mine tailings will be transported to another location on the site to allow the pile to be covered to
prevent water infiltration.

Allyson Beauregard



A portion of the large pile of mine tailings will be transported to another location on the site to allow the pile to be covered to
prevent water infiltration.

Allyson Beauregard

ILE-DU-GRAND-CALUMET – The municipality of Ile-du-Grand-Calumet held a public information meeting, June 22 at the Town Hall, where representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and WSP Canada, a professional services firm, gave details and answered questions about future restoration work at the abandoned Calumet mine site.
Carl Gauthier, Assistant Vice President of WSP Canada, the company in charge of analyzing the mine site and conducting some of the work, and Phillippe Andre Lafrance from the MNR, explained that studies conducted on the site in the fall of 2013 found that surface and ground waters, the soil, and the surrounding environment were impacted by the site. “The residues (tailings) are considered high risk due to leaching of metals that occurs when water runs through the debris. The residues may also produce acid over time. The site is considered a health, security,
and environmental risk,” explained Gauthier, who added that although the wells of surrounding
residences were determined to be clean, in
the long term, there is an
elevated risk that
ground water could be contaminated. 
As a solution, a clay membrane will be used to cover contaminated sites to limit water infiltration. The abandoned site will be divided into three labelled areas: Park A (includes a wetland that will be
preserved), Park B (the large sand pile pictured), and Park C. In order to stabilize the pile and reduce the height of the tailings at Park B, allowing it to be covered properly, between 150 and 180 thousand cubic meters of residue will be moved to Park C. After the work is completed, 700 metres of fence will be installed to isolate risk zones.
Many residents expre-ssed concern regarding the loss of habitat for swallows nested in the sides of the pile at Park B. Gauthier explained an “engineered nesting facility” constructed from concrete will be erected at the site to respond to the habitat loss.
In response to a question about who will pay for the project, estimated to cost over $1.1 million, Gauthier explained that since the mine is considered an abandoned site, responsibility for the area was taken over by the province of Quebec with funding coming from a MNR clean-up program.
“This is a legacy from the past when it was easy for companies to walk away without doing restoration work due to a lack of
regulations. This type of mess won’t happen in the future because new rules stipulate the funds needed to close the site must be put aside within the first two years of operation,” explained Gauthier.
Local resident Donald Scully questioned the necessity of the proposed work: “The pile has been there for over 30 years, why bother with it now?” Gauthier responded by
saying decisions were made based on “real” data that found the water, soil and environment was impacted by the site. “We also found a presence of lead. We
understand the site has been there forever and that it’s part of the landscape, but it is also part of a larger program where regulations protect people and the
environment from harms and risks. If there was no impact, there would be no need to clean it up, but since there could be an impact on health and the environment, a solution must
be developed,” added Gauthier.
WSP Canada is in
the process of obtaining authorization from the MNR to begin the restoration work; they hope to begin working at the site in September, starting with the transportation of tailings from Park B to C.