During the processing of coal from the former Devco Mines, tailings (fine ground rock particles separated from the coal) were produced as a waste product. Fine tailings (approximately 1,000,000m3) were disposed sub-aqueously behind a purpose built dam in Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Dams are a high maintenance structure and entail significant liability. Unless an alternative method of containment/stabilization is utilized the dam will be required for the foreseeable future.
The VJ Tailings Dam has been in place since the 1980’s. The facility is in a state of monitoring and maintenance but as a dam it is inherently risky. The dam is managed in accordance with the Canada Dam Safety Guidelines. It is currently stable but under the current closure strategy it is required to maintain the water cover for generations to come and is subject to land use restrictions, climate change considerations and ongoing maintenance. If a feasible, reliable and economical opportunity exists to stabilize the material without the requirement of water cover or water treatment it would be in the best interest of GOC to decommission the dam.
The current liability cost estimate is for the 40 year period. PSPC has just reinvested to replace the toe drain and reinforce the dam within the last 8 years. A similar level of reinvestment would likely be required in 40 years. Decommissioning would allow PSPC to avoid the majority of the monitoring and maintenance cost as well as the reinvestment. The operations completed in the 1990’s and the Dam has been maintained since closure to maintain the water cover over the tailings and prevent oxidation and the creation of acid rock drainage.
The back-up drinking water supply for the town of New Waterford is nearby and downstream of the tailings dam. Removal of the tailings Dam would ease concerns regarding the back-up drinking water supply for the town of New Waterford by removing hydraulic gradients from the waste material. The current management of the waste requires limited land use over a wide expanse of property. Removal of the dam would allow for fewer land use limitations and the opportunity for the GOC to dispose of some of the land holding currently required because of the dam. Removal of the dam also reduces any perceived risk to down stream properties that may currently hinder development.
Awards:- $1,000,000 CAD
Note:- Canada only