Colomac tucked in for winter
Tailings pond situation stable for now, DIAND says

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 04/99) - With the crisis at Colomac averted, now all that remains is to clean up the mess.

The crisis occurred last winter, when one of the mine's tailings ponds threatened to overflow the banks and spill its vile mix of arsenic, cyanide and other toxic waste into the environment. Last February, the effluent was just 15 centimetres below the overflow mark.

Mine workers on the site and Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development officials managed to prevent the overflow by pumping out the pond into an open mining pit.

"The pumps were shut down in the last one or two weeks and everything was winterized," said DIAND spokesperson Dave Nutter.

"The job that had to be done is done."

Colomac is located about 200 kilometres north of Yellowknife, on Indin Lake. It was put on maintenance by then owner Royal Oak in 1997. Since it went into receivership, the mine has been under control of receiver PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Under the terms of its water licence, there must be a one metre gap between the effective top of the tailings pond and the effluent. The gap now stands at just under two metres.

Nutter said that will be enough to contain winter precipitation once it melts in the spring and prevent a repeat of the emergency action that occurred last year.

More than 600,000 cubic metres of effluent was transferred from the tailings pond to the pit. Though not designed to contain effluent, groundwater in the area flows into the pit.

Nutter said there will be at least a caretaker on site over the winter. One pump which catches effluent leaking from the tailings pond and pumps it back into the pond must continue operating through the winter.