Contaminated mine “an embarrassment to Canada”

As reported by the CBC, a Yukon judge recently gave a scathing assessment of the clean-up efforts at the Mount Nansen mine.   Formerly owned by BYG Natural Resources Inc., the Mount Nansen mine is an abandoned former gold and silver mine located in the heart of the Yukon Territory in northwestern Canada.  It is currently under government care.

Yukon Supreme court justice Ron Veale approved a clean-up plan for the abandoned Mount Nansen mine in the spring of 2016.  However, he issued his written decision only recently.

In the decision, the judge heavily criticizes the former owner of the mine, BYG Resources, for an “unscrupulous history of … operational mismanagement” that left a big, toxic mess is to be clean-up using Canadian taxpayers’ money.

“This case stands as a painful reminder of the lasting and egregious damage that unscrupulous and unchecked profiteering can bring about in the mining sector.  It is an embarrassment to Canada, Yukon and the responsible mining community,” Veale’s decision reads.  “It is my opinion that an account of BYG’s historical activity in the Yukon should be brought to the attention of the federal and territorial taxpayers, who remain fiscally responsible for remediation efforts.”

History of the Mine

BYG began mining gold and silver at the Mount Nansen site in 1996.  By 1999, the company ceased operations as it was unable to meet the requirements of its water licence.

Immediately after shutdown, BYG appointed a receiver to the site.  In July 1999, the receiver abandoned the property.  The Government of Canada took control of the site and began implementing care and maintenance operations.

In 2003, under an agreement between the Yukon and Canadian governments, the Yukon government became responsible for the property along with the development and implementation of a remediation plan.  The financial responsibility for the site resides with the Government of Canada.

In a 2007 decision by the Yukon Supreme Court ruled on environmental charges, the court found the company guilty of “raping and pillaging” the Yukon’s resources.

A 2011 environmental assessment at Mount Nansen estimated about 55,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil, 300,000 cubic metres of tailings and 500,000 cubic metres of waste rock at the site.

To date, it is estimated that approximately $25 million has been spent by the government to monitor and control the site.

Business Opportunity

The mine currently for sale to whomever is willing to take on a “government subsidized remediation project,” according to Veale.

In late 2016, pwc, the court-appointed receiver for the mine, announced a shortlist of proponents who successfully responded to a Request for Qualifications on the purchase of assets and remediation work.  The successful respondents are as follows:

  • 536086 Yukon Inc. (lead respondent Merit Consultants International)
  • Alexco Environmental Group Inc. (lead respondent)
  • Morgan Construction & Environmental Ltd. (lead respondent)

It is expected the pwc will issue a Request for Proposals shortly.  The costs to implement the remediation plan would be paid by the Government of Canada.

Under the conditions of sale, the purchaser will be required to prepare a detailed design for the remediation plan, subject to peer review, and approval under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act.

Required remediation tasks include de-watering the existing pit in preparation to accept the waste rock, tailings, and contaminated soil, then sealing the pit with a permanent liner.  The plan calls for a clean up “as close to walk away as possible,” with nothing left on site that is not required for long term monitoring and maintenance.

The winning proponent will have up to 10 years to complete the tasks required, and could then acquire permits to mine any viable mineral deposits on the property.

$130,000 in Penalties for Improper Storage of Petroleum Products

The Clearwater River Dene Nation, the Clearwater Store, and band administrator, Walter Hainault, were recently sentenced in the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan after pleading guilty to failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order (EPCO) issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).  The Clearwater River Dene Nation was fined $100,000; Clearwater Store was fined $25,000; Walter Hainault was fined $5,000.

The EPCO was issued following an inspection at the store to verify compliance with the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations.  Charges were laid under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 after the EPCO failed to bring about full compliance with the Regulations.

EPCOs are issued under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 by ECCC enforcement officers to direct that various measures be taken to stop or to prevent the commission of an alleged contravention of the Act or its regulations.

The purpose of the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations (SOR, 2008-197) is to reduce the risk of contaminating soil and groundwater due to spills and leaks of petroleum products and allied petroleum products from storage tank systems.  The regulations establish technical standards for the design and installation of storage tank systems, and include requirements for operation, maintenance, removal, reporting and record-keeping.

The fines collected will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund. The Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) follows the Polluter Pays Principle to help ensure that those who cause environmental damage or harm to wildlife take responsibility for their actions.  The EDF is a specified purpose account, administered by ECCC, to provide a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders, and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit our natural environment.

Cloud Delivery of Product Safety, Dangerous Goods, and Scientific Content

3E Company, a provider of environmental health and safety (EH&S) compliance and information management services, recently announced that its product safety, dangerous goods, and scientific content can now be accessed via the cloud for seamless integration with the SAP® Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) system. 3E’s Ariel® Content for the Cloud is a secure solution for optimized data delivery and maintenance that provides SAP users with improved access to the regulatory and scientific content needed to enhance product and facility compliance.

Cloud delivery of 3E’s continually updated and value-added global regulatory research can reduce the cost and complexity of information technology (IT) setup and maintenance, accelerate content updates, streamline compliance processes, facilitate informed decision making, and mitigate the risk of noncompliance.

Ariel Content for the Cloud enables Internet-based delivery of 3E’s global product safety, dangerous goods, and scientific content. Together with 3E’s supplier data and hazard communication rules, phrases, and templates, Ariel Content for the Cloud offers a comprehensive compliance solution, allowing users to more easily manage inbound and outbound data and documents.

Compared with earlier generation content management approaches, Ariel Content for the Cloud offers a simpler, more efficient way to load and update 3E’s data into SAP EHS. 3E developed the solution to eliminate time consuming and resource intensive manual data maintenance processes, reduce technical infrastructure requirements, simplify deployment, and make software and content updates immediately available for customers. By eliminating the need to host the server and database behind their firewall alongside their SAP EHS application, the flexible architecture and lighter technical footprint help lower the total cost of ownership for clients, particularly for smaller companies or those maintaining multiple SAP environments which HostiServer offers cloud servers that can work with this so I hear.

3E Company, a Verisk Analytics (Nasdaq:VRSK) business, offers a comprehensive suite of data and solutions for environmental health and safety (EH&S) compliance management. 3E was founded in 1988 and is headquartered in Carlsbad, California.

 

Robots Mapping and Cleaning Nuclear Sites

As report in Sputnik News, a team of researchers at the University of Manchester in Great Britain has been awarded a grant by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to develop a robotic system equipped with a wider range of sensors than ever before to map nuclear sites.

The world is home to a large number of sites contaminated by radioactive waste, which require the extent of the contamination to be delineated and remediation to occur.  The currently available methodology for mapping and assessing these radioactive sites are extremely expensive and time consuming, involving humans clad in radioactive protective gear, taking samples, and subsequent lab analysis.  In some cases, remote sensors are used which only offer part of the necessary picture.

The robotic system being development at the University of Manchester features optical spectroscopic techniques, advanced radiation detection methods and modern sensor technologies. Each piece of monitoring equipment on the robot will provide a piece of a holistic jigsaw, together with three dimensional mapping of materials within an environment.

The robot system was inspired by NASA’s Curiosity Rover, the robot used to explore the surface of Mars.  The robot will utilize advanced robotics and control technologies similar to those used in the Mars’ Rover.  It is due to be trialled at nuclear contaminated sites including Sellafield in the UK andFukushima in Japan.

Quebec Company fined $500,000 for Oil Discharge

Valero Energy Inc., Jean Gaulin Refinery (formerly Ultramar Ltd.) based Lévis, Quebec, recently pleaded guilty to six environmental offences and it was sentenced by a judge to pay the sum of $500,000.  The company was order to pay a $120,000 fine for failing to comply with an order issued by an officer from Environment Canada and Climate Change (the Canadian equivalent to the U.S. EPA), thereby committing an offence under paragraph 40(3)(g) of the Fisheries Act.  The court also ordered the company to pay the sum of $380,000, pursuant to paragraph 79.2(f), for the financial benefits it obtained through these violations.

An investigation conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) found that Valero Energy Inc. – Jean Gaulin Refinery had failure to comply with a directive issued by ECCC requiring rehabilitation and environmental monitoring work issued following the deposit of a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish.

ECCC enforcement officers conduct inspections and investigations to verify compliance with the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act.  They ensure that regulated organizations are in compliance with environmental legislation.

As a result of this conviction, Valero Energy Inc. will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.  The Environmental Offenders Registry contains information on convictions of corporations obtained under certain federal environmental laws. The registry contains convictions obtained for offences committed since June 18, 2009 – when the Environmental Enforcement Act received Royal Assent.

The total amount of the fine will be deposited in the Environmental Damages Fund, which is administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada.  The Environmental Damages Fund, administered by ECCC and established in 1995, provides a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders, and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit our environment.

Researchers Invent a Sponge for Oil Spill Cleanup

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab recently announced that that had invented a new material that could completely revolutionize the way oil spills are cleaned up.

The sponge foam, called Oleo Sponge, can soak up 90 times its own weight in oil before it needs to be wrung out to be reused — and the oil can be recovered.

                                                                                                                   Oleo Sponge

“The material is extremely sturdy. We’ve run dozens to hundreds of tests, wringing it out each time, and we have yet to see it break down at all,” co-inventor Seth Darling said in a release.

Currently, most products for cleaning up oil are single use, and the oil is wasted.  One of the most common products is a sorbent boom — a long tube that’s thrown on the surface of the water to soak up part of the spill, before being removed to be safely disposed of.  It, and other solutions, can be pricey and slow.

Darling and his team tested the sponge at a giant seawater tank at the National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Test Facility in New Jersey.

The researchers say it could be used to clean harbors and ports, where diesel and oil can accumulate from ships. They say it could also be adapted to clean different substances, by modifying the type of molecule that grabs onto the dirty substance.

The Argonne National Laboratory is a multidisciplinary science and engineering research center. The Laboratory was born out of the University of Chicago’s work on the Manhattan Project in the 1940.

Free Webinar on Management Excess Soil

A free webinar on the about the recently launched Excess Soils By-Law Tool and the Ontario Excess Soil Management Policy Framework will be held on February 17th from noon to 1 pm (EST).  The tool provides links to municipal site alteration and fill by-lawsin Southern Ontario and guidance about how to address common issues through municipal by-laws including permits, fill management plans and fees and cost recovery.

Hosted by the Canadian Urban Institute, the free webinar is scheduled for February 17th from 12:00-1:00 PM (EST).

Excess soil is typically generated during excavation during construction.  It is considered an important resource as it supports plant growth, stores and filters water and provides habitat for organisms, among other functions.  To help preserve this resource, good soil management practices should be implemented to minimize soil excavation during construction and allow for reuse on site. When excess soils are generated, they may be used at another site for a beneficial purpose, provided do not have an adverse effect on the receiving site or impair the water quality.

The Ontario Excess Soil Management Policy Framework is a policy framework for soil management that supports the reuse of excess soil for beneficial uses, in a way that protects human health and the environment.  The final framework contains two key goals related to excess soil:

·       Protect human health and the environment from inappropriate relocation of excess soil; and

·       Enhance opportunities for the beneficial reuse of excess soil and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the movement of excess soil.

The Excess Soil Management Policy Framework also includes a set of principles to guide policy and program development, a description of existing policy, roles and responsibilities and a series of policy needs, actions and priorities to move forward on.

The State of Green Business in 2017

According to the 2017 State of Green Business Report authored by GreenBiz Group Inc., companies continue to ratchet up their commitments and achievements on renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable supply chains, water and land stewardship, the circular economy and other aspects of a sustainable enterprise.  Technology continued its inexorable march, accelerating sustainability solutions in energy, buildings, transportation, food and just about everywhere else.

However, the report also states that indicators continue to be troubling including global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and the loss of natural capital.  The report further states that the recent U.S. election brings into question the future of future climate action and environmental protection.

The report predicts that the coming year or two in the U.S. may see head-snapping policy shifts as the public and private sector grapple with two seemingly unstoppable forces: the political momentum of an increasingly nationalist and protectionist world, and the wrath of a changing climate on a civilization ill-prepared to cope.

On the brighter side, the report states that corporate innovation, boosted by technology’s rampant pace, is enabling radical new levels of efficiency in materials, energy, water and other resources.  The Internet of Things — the interconnected world of tens of billions of objects that can talk to one another, and to us, and make real-time optimization decisions — is enabling buildings, vehicles, power grids, factories and many other things to do far more with fewer resources.  Cities and regions are accelerating their quest to become greener and more resilient, luring corporations to relocate there amid transit hubs and culture centers.

 

$350M Spent on Planning the Remediation of a Yukon Mine

According to a recent article in the National Post, over $350 million has been spent to clean up an abandoned mine in the Yukon with no actual work being done at the site.  The Treasury Board of Canada’s annual report revealed that no actual remediation has occurred at the Faro Mine in Yukon over the past decade although considerable sums of money have been spent on studying and planning.

Classified as one of Canada’s largest contaminated site, the Faro Mine covers 2,500 hectares (6,200 acres).  The mine is located 15 kilometres (9 miles) north of the Town of Faro in Yukon Territory. The mine operated from 1969 to 1998, when its last operator declared bankruptcy and abandoned the site.

The mine site has approximately 70 million tonnes of tailings and 320 million tonnes of waste rock that require remediation to protect human health, as well as the local land, water and wildlife.

The remediation of the Faro mine site is being led by the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon.  This includes representatives from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada’s Northern Contaminated Sites Program and from the Assessment and Abandoned Mines branch of the Government of Yukon’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.

The financial responsibility for the site resides with the Government of Canada who provides funding for care and maintenance operations and remediation planning through the Federal Contaminated Sites Program.

“The biggest problem has been figuring out what to do,” said Lou Spagnuolo, the Vancouver-based Faro mine remediation project director for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), which has the lead on the mine clean-up, and is also working with the Yukon government and affected First Nations communities.

Between 2003 and 2009, more than 100 technical studies and assessments were undertaken, and 12 plans created to deal with various levels of government and affected communities.  A remediation plan was supposed to be in place by 2011.

In 2009, remediating the site was projected to take another 40 years and cost $450 million, according to a statement made at the time by a committee of senior officials from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (as it was known at the time), the Yukon Government, Selkirk First and Ross River Dena Council.

Parsons Corp., a California-based engineering and construction giant, recently won a $58-million contract to provide care and maintenance at the Faro mine site over the next four years.  Before Parsons, Denison Mines Inc. had the contract for $32 million.

These numbers are out of whack with the Treasury Board of Canada annual reports, which indicate that since 2005, just over $29 million has been spent on care and maintenance at the Faro mine, while more than $241 million has been spent on remediation.

The Yukon Conservation Society, a local environmental non-profit, is calling for an audit of Faro mine spending.  “Canadian taxpayers have already spent more than a quarter-billion dollars, and nothing has happened,” said Lewis Rifkind, the organization’s mining analyst.  “There hasn’t been any remediation or results on the ground.  We have no idea where the money has gone, and they’re still issuing contracts like crazy,” he added.

Spagnuolo, the Faro mine remediation project director, estimates that $150 million has been spent on care and maintenance at Faro.  Annual monitoring, regulatory compliance and site assessments, which are not included in care and maintenance contracts, have cost another $60 million, he said. Addressing problems at the deteriorating site, including installing a new water treatment system and covering a section of waste rock that was releasing contaminates, have cost an additional $60 million.  The remaining $80 million went to “overhead,” said Spagnuolo, including First Nation consultations and government salaries.

Consulting costs of the Faro mine remediation include the $82 million paid to CH2M Hill since 2011, according to the Yukon government’s contract registry.

The current timeframe for a remediation plan is 2018.  It is anticipated that the plan will include re-sloping the waste rock piles, installing engineered soil covers over the tailings and waste rock, and upgrading the contaminated water collection and treatment system.

If the plan is approved and the federal government agrees to foot the bill, actual remediation activities are expected to begin in 2024 and take about 40 years to complete.

Image source: Beste Forbrukslån

Bioremediation of long-term PCB-contaminated Soil

Researchers at the Academy of Sciences in the Czech Republic along with collaborators from other Universities in Europe recently released a paper that describes how white rot fungi was effective at reducing the level of PCB contamination in soil.

In addition to the efficiency in PCB removal, attention was given to other important parameters, such as changes in the toxicity and formation of PCB transformation products.  Moreover, structural shifts and dynamics of both bacterial and fungal communities were monitored using next-generation sequencing and phospholipid fatty acid analysis.

The best results were obtained with the fungus P. ostreatus, which resulted in PCB removals of 18.5, 41.3 and 50.5% from the bulk, top (surface) and rhizosphere, respectively, of dumpsite soils after 12 weeks of treatment.  Numerous transformation products were detected (hydoxylated and methoxylated PCBs, chlorobenzoates and chlorobenzyl alcohols), which indicates that both fungi were able to oxidize and decompose the aromatic moiety of PCBs in the soils.  Microbial community analysis revealed that P. ostreatus efficiently colonized the soil samples and suppressed other fungal genera.  However, the same fungus substantially stimulated bacterial taxa that encompass putative PCB degraders.

The researchers concluded that the results of their study finally demonstrated the feasibility of using this fungus for possible scaled-up bioremediation applications.