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
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: http://www.miningwatch.ca
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:
Median of element concentrations in humus (<0.425 mm) as a function of
distance from the smelter.
* see table below:
||Samples > 50 kma
||Sample > 75 kmb
||Snow Lake samples
table source here:
Excessive Lead and Arsenic Concentrations Found in Flin Flon Air
"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
"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 - 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..."
"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
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