The agency in charge of monitoring the environmental footprint of the Ekati Diamond Mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories says its clean-up plans are falling short.
The mine is currently slated to close as early as 2019. While the mine has a good environmental record, the Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency says there are still too many unknowns, when it comes to how the mine site will be restored once the end of the line inevitably comes.
“We keep pushing hard for that information.” agency chair Bill Ross says. Before any mine pits can be filled in and vegetation at the site restored, the company that owns the mine needs to figure out the best way to get the job done.
New diamond finds
The agency says some of that research is one to two years behind schedule as it is. “Details on how best to pump water into the pit lakes, the re-vegetation plans,” Ross says. “We want to see the results in place in time to do the job well.”
Dominion Diamond Corporation acquired Ekati six months ago from global miner BHP Billiton Ltd. The agency says the mine has been slow to clean up parts of the mine that have already been shut down. But a spokesperson with Dominion says that’s just because the company wants to make sure it is completely done with a part of the mine before starting to clean it up.
“We are using actively most of the areas that can be reclaimed,” Dominion’s president of external affairs Brendan Bell says. “We do need to make sure we are really and truly finished with an area and we are not taking active resources away.”
Still, Bell says the company is looking to expedite some of that delayed research and work.
The agency singles out reclamation work on one specific tailings pond, committed to be completed years ago, that still has not been done. And another plan to investigate the growth of permafrost in the waste rock piles is also “clearly lagging,” IEMA says.
Meanwhile, Dominion is now looking into extending the mine’s life by developing other kimberlite pipes on site.
The security bond required to clean up the site has also grown. BHP Billiton had put aside just over $126 million dollars to a security bond before selling the site to Dominion Diamonds six months ago.
However the cost of the clean up has increased. Dominion expects that amount might double.