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A Profile of Barrick Mines in Canada

A review of Barrick's Eskay Creek, Renabie, Hemlo Gold Camp, and Golden Patricia Mines

The Eskay Creek Mine (1995-2008)

The Eskay Creek Mine is in the headwaters of the Unuk River in British Columbia the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation. Barrick purchased the mine in 2001 from Homestake. It opened in 1995 and will have depleted mineable ore by 2008.  

This mine has turned two lakes into tailings impoundments and waste rock dumps: Tom MacKay and Albino Lakes. (This is legal in Canada but severely restricted in other countries like the U.S.)

MiningWatch Canada has expressed increasing concerns about the long term monitoring of the lakes that have been turned into tailings impoundment areas, as there are very high concentrations of antimony, arsenic and mercury contained in the ore.  Unfortunately there is no publicly available data on this as there are no right to know laws in Canada that govern the disposal of toxics to waste rock piles and tailings impoundments and all monitoring on effluents is done by the company itself.

Renabie Mine (1947-1991)

The Renabie Mine is on land that straddles the Arctic and Superior watersheds. It is on the traditional territory of the Missanabie Cree First Nation, who are still fighting for legal recognition of their indigenous land rights.

Renabie was the first gold mine to open after the Second World War (gold mines were required to close during the war because miners were diverted to excavate metals that were more important for war-related production). The mine operated until 1991. Once the ore was depleted, the mine shut down.

Even today the surface water flowing from the property contains elevated levels of zinc, cobalt, iron and copper. In 1995, company reports declared that reclamation work had been completed, except for some re-vegetation of the tailings areas. But in 1998 sink holes began to appear on the site, and in 1999 part of the underground mine collapsed, creating a gaping hole through to the underground workings.

Barrick has been trying to get the provincial government to assume responsibility for the mine following the closure and has applied for an ”exit ticket” in return for a fee of $102,290.  (The system of “exit tickets” which allow companies to walk away from future liability after paying a fee, was created in Ontario after extensive lobbying by the mining industry in the mid-1990s.)

Hemlo Gold Camp (1985-

The Hemlo Gold Camp is located on the north shore of Lake Superior. In 2001, when Barrick Gold bought Homestake mining company, it acquired a joint venture with Teck-Cominco for two mines in the Hemlo Gold Camp – David Bell and Williams.

Workers at the mines have reported numerous cases of lung ailments at these mines, including some cases of silicosis and sarcoidosis. The company has fought worker compensation claims for these ailments ferociously.  
The First Nations indigenous community that lives downstream from the mine are the Pic River peoples. In 2000, the community reported having to replace their water treatment plant in order to remove cyanide from their drinking water.
According to Northwatch, an NGO in northern Ontario, who reviewed the company closure plans, at the Hemlo mines, estimated closure costs and associated financial securities posted by the mining companies, are much lower than real costs are likely to be, as the closure plans for the mines do not include appropriate disposal or treatment of massive piles of acid generating/leachate toxic waste rock, nor do they evaluate the risk of groundwater contamination to the area through seeps from the tailings areas and underground workings.  

Golden Patricia Mine (1988-1997)

The Golden Patricia Mine in northern Ontario opened in 1988. The mine was on the traditional territory of a number of First Nations indigenous peoples which were organized into the Windigo First Nations Tribal Council. The council signed an agreement in 1988 with the mining company for environmental protection, jobs and other benefits and renewed it three years later.
Barrick bought the mine from Lac Minerals in 1995. Two years later, the ore at Golden Patricia was completely depleted. The Windigo First Nations then discovered that neither Lac Minerals nor Barrick had fulfilled the agreement that they had signed.   

A study by Alan Grant, a law professor at York University, in 1997, paints a dismal picture. There was a clause in the agreement that stated that the parties will “leave the land in as good a condition as regards traditional harvesting pursuits upon completion of the Project as it was before the Project began.” Yet the tailings area and waste rock piles are now expected to be toxic in perpetuity. The agreement provided for training and employment, but minimal training was provided. There were no opportunities the indigenous peoples to provide contracted services to the mine and few Windigo members worked at the mine. The council failed to come to any agreement with Barrick about compensation at closure.  

 

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