Residents raise alarm over toxic mining outflows into northern Manitoba lake: Company and government actions questioned in toxic poisoning of Kississing Lake

Western Canada Wilderness Committee Manitoba Office
3rd Floor, 303 Portage Ave, Winnipeg, MB. R3B 2B4
Phone: (204) 942–9292

December 9, 2010

The Wilderness Committee is responding to the appalling news from Sherridon, Manitoba, where a government funded reclamation of an abandoned mine site continues to show that government and industry are not ready to deal with the long-term environmental damage resulting from mining.

In late November, the water treatment plant used in the clean-up effort at the old mine site broke down, causing a toxic soup of acidic water and heavy metals to pour into Kississing Lake. The engineering firm running the reclamation refused to shut down the outflow, even though the town was pleading with them to turn it off. The pH of the water (acidity or basicity) is supposed to be kept over 9, but independent tests of the outflow found a pH of 3, with the levels of zinc, cadmium, aluminum, and copper all way over the accepted limit.

“The government must hold someone responsible for the toxic outflows, and specifically whoever decided to not turn off the treatment plant even though the water was toxic,” said Eric Reder, Campaign Director for the Wilderness Committee. “There are laws to protect our waters from pollution which must be adhered to, and accountability is essential.”

“We've seen first-hand the engineering firm routinely dismissing the questions and objections of the people of Sherridon, in a meeting with Minister Chomiak no less,” said Reder. “The town wants a healthy community, and they want the cleanup done right. They deserve at least that.”

The citizens and the town council of Sherridon have repeatedly brought up concerns about the project, with little response from government. They have noted the fact that containment dykes were leaking, but the engineering firm denied this. The dykes were subsequently found to be leaking. They have brought up the fact that the water being treated at the reclamation site is being released even though it has failed to meet provincial water guidelines. The town has also questioned the plan to reopen the wetland drainage that used to flow through the toxic site in the near future, instead of allowing adequate time to review the long-term results of this experimental reclamation.

“The first major government orphaned mine reclamation project is failing. We need a commitment from government that they will start listening to local residents, and that the water flowing out of this old mine site will meet provincial guidelines,” said Reder.

“Mining has had a huge impact on our environment in Manitoba. We need to handle this mining pollution problem now, before it gets any worse,” said Reder.

For more information contact Eric Reder, (204) 997-8584

Photos of orphaned mine site and toxic outflow are available for publication.