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Environmental assessment conducted to settle the Shoal Lake controversy.

Environmental assessment conducted to settle the Shoal Lake controversy

By deciding last August to subject Consolidated Professor Mines Limited's Duport project to an environmental assessment hearing, Environment Minister Jim Bradley helped escalate the controversy involving the future use of Shoal Lake.

Shoal Lake, located approximately 55 kilometers southwest of Kenora and divided by the Ontario/Manitoba border, has a unique history which spans more than 100 years.

The present Duport gold deposit was discovered on Cameron Island in Shoal Lake during 1987 and a shaft was sunk in 1905. Three mines were in production on the east side of Shoal Lake. The most notable, the Mikado mine which operated until 1924, was one of the first mines in North America to use cyanide for gold recovery.

WATER EXTRACTED

While mining was underway on Shoal Lake, a second resource extraction project was also commencing. An aqueduct to supply water from Shoal Lake to Winnipeg was approved by the city of Winnipeg in 1912.

The aqueduct and adjoining railway were conceived and designed by the managing director of the Mikado mine, who later became the mayor of Winnipeg and arranged funding for the project.

An Ontario Order in Council dated Oct. 2, 1913 permitted Winnipeg to divert water from Shoal Lake at a maximum rate of 100 million gallons per day, with the stipulation that, "full compensation would be made to the province of Ontario and all private parties whose lands or properties may be taken, injuriously affected, or in any way interfered with."

A Jan. 19, 1990 document prepared by Shoal Lake property owners entitled "Ontario Appears Ready to Give Shoal Lake to Manitoba" points out, "when Shoal Lake water arrived, they (the city of Winnipeg), turned off their water treatment plant which had been costing them $1.6 million per year to run. In 1919 the city boasted that they would turn a handsome after-cost-saving of $600,000 per year on Shoal Lake water."

The document also states that, "1989's after-cost water profits for the City of Winnipeg are in the range of $6 million."

COTTAGE DEVELOPMENT

Cottage development on Shoal Lake, which increased rapidly after the early 1970s, has also become a significant factor in the present dispute over use of the resource. Statistics show that cottages on Shoal Lake now number 150, with 100 more in various stages of approval and development.

A memorandum prepared by Consolidated Professor Mines Limited on March 23 states, "Most cottage lots are obtained through the purchase of surface rights of patented mining claims which are subsequently subdivided. Several cottages are on islands within a kilometre of the Stevens Island mine site. For two cottages, noise levels from mining operations would be uncomfortable and it would probably be necessary for the company to purchase these assets. At least 90 per cent of the cottages on Shoal Lake are owned by Manitoba residents from the Winnipeg area. Most of the cottages have only primitive sanitary facilities."

NATIVE UNEMPLOYMENT

The Shoal Lake Indian Reserve Bands 39 and 40 are located on the Ontario side of Indian Bay, the site of the Winnipeg water intake. The bands, which total approximately 500 people, have an unemployment rate of approximately 50 per cent.

A 1980 bid by the bands to develop 350 cottage lots on Indian Bay was blocked by the City of Winnipeg. The dispute was settled in 1986 when the Greater Winnipeg Water District placed $6 million in trust for the band with the interest to be used to fund alternative development projects. The agreement is conditional on a contribution of $3 million from the federal government.

The Shoal Lake property owners' document notes that, "Falcon Lake (on the Manitoba side) which drains directly into Shoal Lake is the site of extensive cottage and recreational development by the Province of Manitoba. Shoal Lake Band Number 40, prompted by economic necessity, proposed to develop some of its land to less than half the scale of Falcon Lake."

Principal sources of income for the bands have been commercial fishing and harvesting of wild rice. In 1981 commercial fishing was suspended due to a depletion of walleye stock.

Band Number 39 has signed a tentative employment agreement with Consolidated Professor which would see about 25-percent native employment at the mine. However, it may be three years before the assessment concludes and the agreement can be put into effect.

WATER PROTECTION

In December the Winnipeg Water Protection Group (WPG) was incorporated in an effort to stop development of the Duport mine project and to preserve the quality of Winnipeg's water supply. The organization advocates the creation of a Clean Water Act legislating zero discharge of toxic materials into drinking water. It wants all levels of government to adopt a policy supporting zero discharge of persistent toxins into Shoal Lake.

"We have two major areas of concern that must be addressed," said group spokesman and cottage owner Helen McCullough. "First, there is very little data with respect to heavy metals such as uranium and mercury in the mine effluent. And second, there is potential for a serious disaster should an accident occur either on land or during transportation operations between Stevens Island and the mainland."

McCullough reported that the association has received $50,000 in financial support from the City of Winnipeg, while all funding requests to the Province of Manitoba have been denied. The group plans to apply for additional intervenor funding provided under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act.

According to Consolidated Professor Mines president Dick Dunlop, the Winnipeg action group is over-reacting to any environmental threat from the Shoal Lake mine.

Consolidated Professor's Environmental Assessment memorandum says "the only issue of consequence is the expressed concern that liquid effluents containing arsenic or other heavy metals from the Stevens mining and milling operations will contaminate Shoal Lake water and therefore the Winnipeg water supply. The design of the tailings treatment system and recycling of water will effectively preclude this possibility. Other arguments are made about potential spills, but in fact no hazardous materials will be used at the Stevens Island site. Transportation over water and ice can be safely managed with proper equipment and procedures."

According to Consolidated officials, the $53-million construction phase of the project will inject $15 million in wages and expenditures into the local Kenora area. The mine's annual operating expenses will provide $10.3 million in wages and purchases of local services and supplies. Approximately 175 permanent jobs will be provided, of which 120 jobs should be available to existing residents of the area, including the native residents of Shoal Lake.

JIM HOPPER Correspondent
COPYRIGHT 1990 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Consolidated Professor Mines Ltd. project reviewed
Author:Hopper, Jim
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:May 1, 1990
Words:1098
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