Screen capture from map of Bancroft-area mines and sites where samples were taken. /CNSC website

Sampling near old mine sites finds ‘no expected health impacts’

By Jenn Watt

Results from sediment and water sampling at three decommissioned mine sites in the area around Cardiff and Bancroft conducted in 2019 show the public and environment are protected, information released last month by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says.

The Independent Environmental Monitoring Program, mandated under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, requires that staff from the nuclear safety commission collect samples for independent testing and analysis.

In the case of the three local mines – Dyno, Bicroft, and Madawaska – samples focus on radioactive and hazardous contaminants.

“The IEMP involves taking samples from public areas around the facilities, and measuring and analyzing the amount of radioactive and hazardous substances in those samples,” information from the nuclear safety commission reads.

The Dyno decommissioned mine is in the area of Farrel Lake in the southeast corner of Haliburton County. The mill there operated between 1958 and 1960 and consists of capped mine openings, mine tailings, and a containment dam. EWL Management Ltd. manages the site.

The Madawaska decommissioned mine is just south of the town of Bancroft and operated from 1957 to 1982. It is also managed by EWL, which began rehabilitation and maintenance work on two tailings management areas in 2015 as well as some “underground workings,” according to the online report.

The Bicroft decommissioned mine site is managed by Barrick Gold Corporation and was constructed to contain tailings from nearby mining operations at the Bicroft mine, which operated from 1956 to 1962. Remedial work was done in 1980 and the dams upgraded in the ’90s.
Of the samples taken, the report states that all were within safe limits with the exception of two water samples at the Madawaska site.

“Some historical sites are being monitored because they exceed guidelines. The sampling stations which exceeded uranium guidelines were BM07-W07 (29.5 µg/L) and BM09-W09 (20.12 µg/L) both of which were situated downstream of the Madawaska site,” said a CNSC media representative in response to questions on Monday. “These water samples are above the guideline for aquatic life (15µg/L) and slightly above but well within the range of safety margins incorporated into the Ontario drinking water standard (20µg/L; US EPA guideline = 30 µg/L), therefore, the environment remains safe. It should also be noted that none of the samples taken were from locations that should be used as untreated drinking water sources. These results are consistent with the results submitted by the licensee as part of their environmental monitoring program.

“Multiple environmental and human health assessments have been completed by the licensee and/or federal-provincial authorities over the last two decades for this site, all of which have demonstrated that the environment and the public are protected. Uranium concentrations have significantly decreased since decommissioning of Madawaska with improvement over the last two decades. Madawaska is currently completing significant upgrades to their tailings cover designs, which will further diminish uranium levels in this system.”

Licensees must also conduct their own environmental protection programs and compliance is verified by the nuclear safety commission. To ensure members of the public do not access the properties, signage is posted at the gates and in some cases, gates are also security patrolled.

“IEMP results from 2019 indicate that the public and the environment around the Bancroft mine sites are protected and there are no expected health impacts,” the report concludes.