DOING SOME DIGGING – Where old mines slumber

Everybody and their uncle is raising money these days to find the next mother lode. Funding is easy when commodity ...
Everybody and their uncle is raising money these days to find the next mother lode. Funding is easy when commodity prices skyrocket. We are enjoying that rare cyclical upturn during which gold, uranium, coal and base metals are experiencing high prices at the same time.

Eventually the cycle will reverse; prices will drop and uneconomic mines will close. Canada's rich mining history has left behind hundreds of orphaned or abandoned mines, whose owners are unable or unwilling to clean them up. The sites pose safety, environmental, health and economic problems wherever they exist, and their existence is not well documented. For that reason NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA is spearheading the NATIONAL ORPHANED/ABANDONED MINES INITIATIVE.

NAOMI is a joint industry-government initiative organized a few years ago to review the issue of abandoned mines. It held its first workshop in June 2001 and presented its recommendations to the Mines Ministers' Conference in September that year. The ministers agreed that the abandoned mines issue needed to be addressed, and so the work of NAOMI continues.

NAOMI is structured along conventional lines, with an advisory committee and several task groups. The committee includes members from provincial and territorial mines departments, federal departments (including NRCan, Health Canada and Environment Canada), industry and aboriginal assemblies. Specific task groups are examining how to gather information, community involvement, breaking down the barriers to collaboration and how to fund remediation.

The most recent NAOMI report is called "Capacity Building for a National Inventory of Orphaned/Abandoned Mines in Canada (March 2005)". The report reviews Canadian and international efforts to identify abandoned mines and proposes that a database be created to contain the information. The report may be read in its entirety at This is a necessary first step in the program, since we must determine what and where abandoned mines are before a clean-up strategy can be developed.

CMJ readers will be familiar with MEND, the Mine Environment Neutral Drainage program (, which has successfully found methods of treating acid mine drainage from active projects. NAOMI is a logical parallel undertaking that addresses broader issues at sites which may otherwise be overlooked.

Information on both programs is available from Gilles Tremblay at or 613-992-0968.


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