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How to reconcile more than a century of mining history with today's rehabilitation standards: a case study in Cobalt, Ontario

Paper from the Proceedings of Mine Closure 2015 conference held in Vancouver, Canada, June 1-3, 2015. (downloadable PDF)

Authors: J. Noël, Mine Reclamation, Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., Canada; J. Cayouette, Mine Reclamation, Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., Canada; J.-F. Doyon, Sustainable Development, Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., Canada; M. R. Julien, Environment, Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., Canada

Published by InfoMine Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-9917905-9-3
Copyright: 2015, InfoMine Inc.


Abstract

The Cobalt Mining Camp, in northeastern Ontario, Canada, was discovered in the early 1900s and has been the host of more than a hundred silver mines and some 30 mills over the course of the last century. Mine sites have changed ownership over the years and have been progressively closed to the standards of the time.

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. acquired properties in the Cobalt area starting in 1953, operated some mines from 1953 to 1989 and still holds the rights of a portion of the former mining sites in the area. A first series of closure plans was submitted to the Ontario government in the 1990s and completed in the early 2000s. Agnico Eagle is currently in the process of updating its closure plans. This process is a challenging one, since the plans amendments include more than 230 properties for which more than 500 mine hazards (old shafts, headframes, raises, trenches, waste rock piles, tailings accumulation areas, etc.) have been identified. Moreover, a significant number of properties present complex ownership rights and are located near inhabited areas. Many of them also present features of historical significance (the Town of Cobalt is considered Ontario’s most historic town). The updated rehabilitation plans have to integrate all of these features and take into account the dynamic reaction of the natural environment to this mining legacy.

The process to date has highlighted the importance of clearly defining the restoration objectives and of having a detailed process to determine the appropriate rehabilitation measures, taking into account site specificity and the unique nature of the Cobalt area. The selected approach is one based on risks assessment and innovation. This exercise also proves to be a great opportunity to build further on the relationship with the Cobalt community, proud pioneers of the Canadian mining industry.


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