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GOVERNMENT OF CANADA SUPPORTS ONGOING REMEDIATION OF FORMER MINE SITES IN CAPE BRETON
NEW VICTORIA (NS) – August 3, 2012 – The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment, toured the site of the New Victoria Mine-Water Treatment Plant currently being built by the Government of Canada to manage mine-water discharges from decommissioned coal mines beneath Sydney Mines and New Waterford.
“Our Government is committed to fulfilling its obligation to remediate the mine sites of the former Cape Breton Development Corporation,” said Minister Kent on behalf of the Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Associate Minister of Defence and Minister of State for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and La Francophonie. “The management of mine-water is a key component of the remediation process and the construction of this $12.5 million treatment facility is essential to the protection of the natural environment.”
Coal mining on Cape Breton Island began almost 300 years ago and has been integral to the development of the local economy. As a result of these mining operations, there is now an extensive network of abandoned tunnels stretching from Point Aconi to Donkin, extending deep under the ocean floor off the Cape Breton coastline.
When mining operations cease, collieries flood with ground water. As the water comes in contact with the coal face, it is exposed to sulphides (mainly pyrite) contained in the remaining coal. A chemical reaction occurs when the pyrite dissolves, releasing metals (e.g. iron, manganese, and aluminum), and causing acidity that depresses the pH of the mine-water. When mine-water reaches the surface, an additional chemical reaction occurs causing the metals to become visible and the mine-water to take on a copper hue.
The New Victoria Mine Water Treatment Plant will treat mine-water from nine mines in both the Sydney Mines and New Waterford mine pools before it reaches the surface. Active mine-water treatment includes using a mechanical plant and lime to remove the metals and achieve acceptable pH levels. Further passive treatment involves flowing treated water through a settling pond and a constructed wetland before discharging the remediated water into the ocean.
The $12.5 million New Victoria Mine Water Treatment Plant is expected to be fully operational by October 2012. The plant will have the capacity to treat 1,000 gallons of mine- water per minute.
Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation offers programs in support of economic development initiatives and is responsible for delivering ACOA’s programs on Cape Breton Island and in the Mulgrave area. ECBC is also responsible for the environmental remediation and human resource obligations of the former Cape Breton Development Corporation.