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Environmental Web Sources and Data about Flin Flon Mines Area

Excerpts from article below about the Flin Flon area:

"...much information, including that collected by Health Canada (e.g., toxic metal levels in blueberries) has not been made available to the residents of Flin Flon." and...

"The higher the metal content of the soil, the higher the metal content of the plant."

Abandoned Mines Leave Dirty Legacy of Toxic Water
Monday, February 10th, 2003
Winnipeg Free Press
By Helen Fallding

Water near an abandoned mine outside Flin Flon has some of the highest levels of metal contamination in Canada and possibly the world, according to a federal government scientist.

Zinc, lead and cobalt -- toxic to spawning fish and potentially risky for people -- were among the pollutants found near Sherridon mine waste piles about 60 kilometres northeast of Flin Flon, Carol Ptacek said.

"It's like battery acid, basically -- maybe not quite as strong,' said the researcher with Environment Canada's National Water Research Institute in Burlington, Ont.

Ptacek was asked to study the mine wastes by Manitoba Conservation following complaints from residents of nearby Sherridon, where wind blows dust from tailings piles and residents eat fish or berries that may be contaminated.

Water that comes in contact with the tailings evaporates, concentrating the pollutants and turning ponds at the mine site bright red.

But Ptacek said many of the contaminants solidify and settle on the bottom of the small lakes near the mine and they are diluted by the time they reach Kississing Lake.

Manitoba Conservation is assessing the risk to fish and people, but results of that work are not yet available.

A University of Manitoba student found metals in the ear bones of fish in the area, but that study was not enough to establish whether there is any risk from eating the fish.

Sherridon deputy mayor Nick Benyk said residents have not noticed any health problems related to the acid leaching.

"I don't think there's anything we can put our fingers on."

Fish tend to avoid the area close to the mine and fishing guides try not to fly tourists over the weirdly coloured water, Benyk said.

Ptacek said many old mine sites across Canada face similar problems.

Work is also underway to assess the environmental impact of the Lynn Lake Sherritt Gordon Mine. In 2001, the province committed $1 million over four years to assess five old mine sites, including the Baker Paton Mine, Gods Lake Gold Mine and the Snow Lake arsenopyrite stockpile.

Copper and zinc were mined at Sherridon from 1928 until the mine closed in 1951. Waste piles of sulphide minerals combine with oxygen in the air to create sulphuric acid.

The leaching could go on for decades or even centuries unless something is done to stop it, Ptacek said.

The province will consider treating the groundwater -- a multimillion-dollar proposition -- or some of the alternatives still being tested in other parts of the world. The waste could be covered top and bottom so water cannot contact it or covered in wood chips that absorb oxygen before it gets to the tailings.

Ptacek said it typically takes a few years to design a remediation plan that fits the site.

Mining companies that left waste behind decades ago are largely off the hook for cleanup costs because of historically lax environmental regulations. New mines face stricter rules.

Information on abandoned mines across the country is available on the Web site of lobby group MiningWatch Canada:

article source:

From an interview by Cannabis Culture with Brent Zettl: "Water is piped down from the surface of a nearby lake, the same source used for drinking water by the local town of Flin Flon, and is tested on a weekly basis. The soil is the same soil that Prairie Plant also uses to grow fruit trees: local outdoor soil enriched with a mix of peat moss, coconut primer blend and fertilizer."


Flin Flon Soil Sample Data:

Table 1.
Median of element concentrations in humus (<0.425 mm) as a function of distance from the smelter.

* see table below:

Element All samples Samples > 50 kma Sample > 75 kmb Snow Lake samples
Smelter metals
As (ppm) 6 3 3 3
Cd (ppm) 1.5 1.0 0.5 0.8
Cu (ppm) 36 20 17 17
Hg (ppb) 300 190 180 176
Pb (ppm) 56 34 28 33
Zn (ppm) 172 84 68 101
Non-smelter metals
Cr (ppm) 11 11 12 11
Ni (ppm) 8 8 8 8
Major elements
Ca (%) 0.95 1.25 1.33 1.01
Fe (%) 0.58 0.52 0.53 0.47
Mg (%) 0.22 0.31 0.38 0.35

table source here:

Excessive Lead and Arsenic Concentrations Found in Flin Flon Air Tests

"Air pollution at Flin Flon near Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting continues to exceed provincial air quality objectives, with no noticeable changes from previous patterns. Levels of sulphur dioxide vary from month to month but, on average, exceed the 1-hour maximum acceptable level some 15 -- 20 hours each month at the five monitoring sites in Flin Flon and nearby Creighton on the Saskatchewan side. Records also show that, in Flin Flon, levels of particulates, and concentrations of lead and arsenic, sometimes exceed provincial objectives and guidelines."


"Levels of sulphur dioxide in Flin Flon continue to exceed provincial air quality objectives, with no noticeable change from previous patterns."


"The Canadian Environmental Defence Fund said mining smelters in Canada released more than 2.3 million pounds of heavy metals in 1998, including arsenic, mercury, lead and nickel compounds, all highly poisonous and harmful to people's health and the environment.

Ranked by facility, the fund's report said Inco's Copper Cliff operation in Sudbury, Ontario, was a major polluter, followed by Noranda's Horne smelter in Quebec, then Hudson Bay's Flin Flon smelter in Manitoba..."


Manitoba - Hudson Bay - Flin Flon

Hudson Bay Flin Flon Copper Smelter and Zinc Refinery - "The toxic metals deserve more attention because of known human health effects."


"Mine Site Closure

In the Flin Flon and Snow Lake areas, Hudson's Bay Mining and Smelting (HBMS) began a mine and mine site rehabilitation program following the shut down of a number of their mines during the 1980s...

The tailings generated by these sites, which are located near HBMS's Flin Flon smelter, do remain an ongoing concern for water quality...

The decommissioning work conducted by HBMS in the early 1990s consisted of the removal of mine structures and the replacement of waste rock in to underground workings. Since these mines were all underground mines and ore was processed off site, the reclamation practices were simplified on site - the wastes could be deposited underground.

As mentioned above, the more toxic tailings are located in Flin Flon.

The sheer size of the contaminated area in Flin Flon makes it impossible to remediate. In particular, there is a large volume of tailings that blow in the wind, and the metal content (copper, cadmium and lead) makes it difficult for vegetation to establish. Community concerns have historically not been adequately addressed, and much information, including that collected by Health Canada (e. g., toxic metal levels in blueberries) has not been made available to the residents of Flin Flon...

There are concerns regarding environmental quality in northern Manitoba because the metals continue to cycle in the natural systems, and the acid deposition makes the problem worse by making the metals readily assimilable. Revegetating areas such as tailings dumps would really require sealing the tailings off from access by roots, otherwise the metals will continue to recycle.

The higher the metal content of the soil, the higher the metal content of the plant."


"At highly contaminated sites (<3 km), in till, increased percentages of smelter related elements in labile phases may suggests heavy metals are leached from humus to the underlying sediments... Detailed humus profile and forest litter samples were collected at 9 selected sites over the Flin Flon area..."


"The distribution of smelter related elements in humus represents the historical record of contamination in the Flin Flon area. The base metal mining and smelting complex has been in operation since the early 1930's, processing ore from local mines, and has undergone many changes during its history..."


further source:

"Concentrations of emitted metals are elevated in the surface organic-rich horizons of soils near Rouyn-Noranda (Pb>Cu), Trail (Pb>Cu>Hg), Flin Flon (Cu=Pb>Hg) and Pinchi (Hg), and decrease with increasing distance from the source according to simple regression models. Integrations under the regression models generally show a good relationship to the estimated historical emissions."

"Humus is therefore capable of effectively retaining the deposited metal emissions near the facilities. Some evidence for leaching of metal contaminants from the humus into the mineral soils is seen at Trail, where Pb accumulation in the B-horizons is observed to a distance of at least 20 km from the smelter, and at Flin Flon and Rouyn-Noranda, where the B-horizons of sites located within 10 km of the smelters can be contaminated by smelter-related metals."


The leading sources of mercury were Safety-Kleen Ltd., a big hazardous waste processor near Sarnia, followed by Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co. Ltd. in Flin Flon, Man., and almost all of the country's major coal-fired power stations.

The rankings were made possible because Environment Canada has forced industries and municipalities, for the first time, to make public the amounts of mercury and dioxins they are discharging into the country's air, land and water.

The information was placed on Environment Canada's national databank of major pollution releases by domestic industries during the year 2000.


Environment Canada on Hudson Bay Mining:

3.2.2 Mining Impacts

Metal smelters in the Boreal Shield are point sources of acid and heavy metal pollution that cause widespread aquatic contamination via atmospheric transport (Lockhart et al., 1993; Gunn, 1995; Rudd, 1995). Mercury and cadmium are released into the atmosphere through smelting and other industrial processes, then deposited across the landscape, including in Boreal Shield lakes. Once they enter the food chain, they accumulate in tissues of organisms and may reach toxic levels (Malley, 1993; Malley et al., 1996).

Manitoba's Flin Flon smelter has been a chronic cause of environmental concerns and exceeds emission limits for an average of 150 hours per year (Gibson et al., 1997). Although eastern smelters have made significant acid emission reductions of over 75% over the past 20 years, Manitoba's reductions over the same period (Flin Flon and Thompson combined) have been only 24% (Table 2).


Geochemichal map of Flin Flon ARSENIC Levels:
Heavy Metals in Humus:

As (ppm) in humus