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Environmentally Sustainable Mining

This page is authored by Stephen Kissin, Lakehead University, based on a field trip conducted by Mark Puumala, Ontario Ministry of the Environment.
Lakehead University, Geology
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Summary

This field trip illustrates the difference between mining activity that has produced environmental problems through poor practices as compared to activity conducted with a plan for remediation and control of potential pollution of an environmentally sensitive area.

Learning Goals

This activity is a vivid illustration of the need for planning for environmental sustainability in mining operation and closure, particularly for sulfide ores, which can generate acid and produce contamination by heavy metals.

Context for Use

This is a one-day field trip. As the properties are regulated by the mining company or the Ministry of the Environment, safety boots are required by attendees. The students should be at a third or fourth year level in geology, water resource science or civil engineering.

Description and Teaching Materials

Sustainability in our area of northwestern Ontario is concerned with mining activities' sustainability in relation to the environment. A striking illustration can be seen in a one-day field trip to two now closed mines. The North Coldstream Mine operated from 1957 to 1967 producing 2.5 million tonnes of copper-zinc sulfide ore. The mine closed before environmental regulations were enacted. It provides a contrast to the nearby Shebandowan Mine that operated between 1973 and 1998 producing 9.29 tonnes of copper-nickel sulfide ore. In this case, environmental standards came into effect during the lifetime of the mine. The relatively well regulated remediation activities at Shebandowan are in strong contrast to the serious environmental problems at the North Coldstream site.

Environmentally Sustainable Mining (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 10kB Jun20 12)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Permission is required to enter these site from the company and Ministry of the Environment. As well, a guide familiar with the area is necessary.
Safety-toed boots are required, and in summer, insect repellent, especially for ticks is needed. It may be advisable to carry bear spray and bear bangers.

Assessment

Attendance is sufficient for this activity.

References and Resources

Puumala, Mark 2012. Field trip 9 - Rehabilitation of the past-producing Shebandowan and North Coldstream mine sites.In; Hollings, P., MacTavish, A. and Addison, W. (Eds.), Institute on Lake Superior Geology Proceedings, 58th Annual Meeting, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Part 2 - Field trip guidebook, v.58, part 2, 2-26.

(available as a PDF at www.lakesuperiorgeology.org)


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