SRC is successfully collaborating with all project stakeholders to safely move Project CLEANS (Cleanup of Abandoned Northern Sites) forward in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. SRC is remediating 37 abandoned mine sites in northern Saskatchewan so they can be used for traditional purposes once again.
We want to thank community members for working with us through this difficult time. We appreciate our partnership with Prince Albert Grand Council and the Athabasca region, and look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.
Normally, our Project CLEANS team visits the communities each winter to present updates, but they were unable to travel this year because of COVID-19. So instead, we're sharing our updates virtually. Please contact us if you have any questions about the project.
2020 Work season general update
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the 2020 field season for Project CLEANS. Weekly site inspections were completed by Fond Du Lac Nuna Joint Venture during the COVID-19 shut down period to ensure there were no spills or leaks from the fuel storage areas and that there were no adverse environmental impacts at the Gunnar Mine site.
SRC began consulting with all applicable stakeholders, including Athabasca Leadership and the Athabasca Health Authority, to develop a system that would allow the projects to safely resume work.
Thanks to the safety plans created, SRC received approvals from all project stakeholders, and was able to safely begin work at the sites in mid-July 2020.
The Gunnar Tailings Project made significant progress towards project completion this year in several areas. In 2020, the contractor, Fond Du Lac Nuna Joint Venture, completed the production of rip rap materials and the cover system in the Catchment 3 tailings area.
Work was done in the drainage channels to remove bedrock that would have blocked the passage of water, in preparation for the completion of the cover systems.
The 2020 work season was impacted by COVID-19, including the planned work on the Langley Bay tailings, which was postponed due to high water levels on Lake Athabasca.
Fond Du Lac Nuna Joint Venture continued to haul waste rock to the Gunnar Main Tailings to complete the construction of the landform shape and will continue hauling into 2021. In order to recuperate the time lost to the COVID-19 shutdown, a small night shift was initiated in October. During the night shift, waste rock was hauled to the Gunnar Main Tailings and the rip rap material was sorted.
Borrow material was placed in the Gunnar Main Tailings, Gunnar Central and Catchment 3 areas of the site.
Plans for revegetation were delayed in the 2020 season due to the early arrival of winter in the first weeks of October. The 2020 season was a safe and productive year, in consideration of all the challenges.
Gunnar Other Site Aspects
The Gunnar Other Site Aspects Remediation project is dealing with all the Gunnar Site features not related to the tailings. It includes cleaning up legacy waste and demolition debris, constructing landfills, profiling and covering waste rock piles, and final grading and revegetation of the site.
Although summer field activities in 2020 were delayed due to the Covid-19 outbreak, QM Points successfully completed most of the planned work. All construction materials, equipment and fuel necessary for Gunnar Other Aspect remediation activities were successfully delivered to the Gunnar Site over the winter road.
Asbestos containing materials were collected and moved safely from temporary storage locations to a special section in Landfill A and then covered by soil, waste steel, wood and concrete debris as per the approved design. Legacy concrete structures have been demolished and also moved to Landfill A. Landfill B was sealed with shotcrete to ensure impermeability and the safe disposal of legacy hazardous waste.
SRK Consulting provided the quality assurance and quality control services, to confirm that the remediation work was done in accordance with the design.
Workers from the Athabasca Basin Region were a top priority when the contractor was hiring on-site personnel for the Project. In 2020, at least 60% of onsite hours were contributed by Aboriginal people from the Athabasca Basin Region. The use of Athabasca Basin Region Heavy Equipment reached as high as of 92% on average.
Looking to 2021, we expect to complete legacy waste sweeps, finish Landfills A and B, and start placement covers on the profiled waste rock piles.
We are excited to announce that remediation of Cayzor, Cinch, Eagle and Leonard mines near Uranium City are complete. The mines have entered a period of transitional monitoring. Grasses and other indigenous plants seeded in 2019 are establishing very well.
During the 2020 field season, we completed the remediation of Gulch Mine on the shore of Lake Athabasca, just north of Gunnar. This included the closure of the adit with a stainless-steel grate. This type of closure allows bats to come in and out and provides potential habitat for endangered species.
An environmental site assessment at the Nicholson Mine was initiated in 2020, which included soil and water sampling, investigating mine openings and creating an inventory of hazardous material and other activities. We ask that the public stay off the site and away from marked off areas due to the many hazards at Nicholson Mine.
Looking to 2021, we expect to continue the assessment of Nicholson Mine, and to close 10 mine openings with stainless-steel closures and backfills at seven sites.
After completing a detailed environmental site assessment of Lorado Mine and Uranium Ridge in 2020, the risks associated with the site will be assessed in 2021.
Remediation of the Former Lorado Mill Site was completed in 2016. SRC is now focused on the monitoring and maintenance phase of the project.
In 2020, site maintenance included closure of a sinkhole within the historical mill footprint, invasive plant control, installation of monitoring equipment and collection of residual legacy debris.
2020 monitoring activities included water sampling, gamma surveys and site inspections. The monitoring data shows that the remediation was successful in mitigating the public and environmental hazards. It is amazing to see the area has turned into a wildlife habitat, which is actively used by different species.
In 2021, we will continue monitoring to confirm long-term site stability.