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Project: Solution

Background

A wide range of experts used over 100 technical studies to find the best ways of reducing major environmental concerns at the Faro Mine complex. By the spring of 2006, the results of these studies had been combined to create a range of engineering designs called “example alternatives.”

Based on these technical studies, four “example alternatives” for each of the three principal areas of the site; the Rose Creek Tailings, the Faro Mine area, and the Vangorda/Grum area, were developed (12 sample alternatives in total). These “example alternatives” aimed to protect human health and safety, and the environment. They also aimed to return the area to an acceptable state of use for future generations.

For the Rose Creek Tailings, the “example alternatives” were:

  1. Stabilize the Tailings in Place
  2. Complete Relocation
  3. Partial Recolation
  4. Minimize Construction

For the Faro Mine Area, the “example alternatives” were:

  1. Faro Creek Flow to Pit
  2. Upgrade Faro Creek Diversion
  3. Minimize Construction
  4. Minimize Water Treatment

For the Vangorda/Grum Area, the “example alternatives” were:

  1. Backfill Vangorda Pit
  2. Stabilize in Place
  3. Minimize Construction
  4. Minimize Water Treatment

A full description of these 12 “example alternatives” can be found here.

In October 2006, the Faro Project Management Team initiated an Independent Technical Peer Review (IPRP) of the 12 “example alternatives”. The Peer Review Panel was made up of nine leading experts in various aspects of mine closure, and was tasked with:

  1. assessing the engineering adequacy of the 12 “example alternatives”
  2. determining whether all rational and viable remediation measures have been identified, and
  3. identifying any information gaps and the need for any additional work.

Their full report can be found here.

As a result of the IPRP findings, and also feedback from two rounds of community consultations held in Fall 2006/Spring 2007, the 12 “example alternatives” were further refined into five closure options; three for the Faro Mine area (pit, tailings and waste rock) and two for the Vangorda/Grum area. A summary of these five closure options can be found here.

12 Options to 5 Options

* The recommended closure and remediation plan includes Option #2 for both the Faro and Vangorda/Grum Area.

Community members, technical consultants and governments spent over a year evaluating the short list of five options against the project objectives. The findings of the assessment and evaluation process were presented to the Faro Mine Oversight Committee (the Government of Canada, the Yukon government, Ross River Dena Council and Selkirk First Nation) who reviewed the findings and were able to agree on a preferred option that will form the overall closure and remediation plan for the Faro Mine Complex.

The recommended closure and remediation plan is based on a stabilize in place approach. Just like it sounds, this approach will involve upgrading dams to ensure tailings stay in place during natural events such as earthquakes and floods. In addition, all waste rock will be re-sloped to improve long-term stability and engineered soil covers will be installed over approximately 376 million tones of tailings and waste rock. The recommended closure plan also provides for state-of-the-art collection and treatment systems for contaminated water.

Engineered soil covers are made of natural materials (soils and gravels) and are designed to minimize the infiltration of rain and melt water into tailings and waste rock. This reduces the rate at which contaminants are created and transported into the aquatic environment where they can be harmful to fish and other aquatic organisms. Soil covers also prevent humans and wildlife from contacting contaminated materials, and also stop movement of these materials by wind and water. An uncompacted top “growing layer” of soil allows for revegetation of the covers, both to help the covers work better and to improve habitat for birds and animals. Before being covered, tailings and waste rock will be reshaped to look more like the natural environment.

12 Options to 5 Options

An illustrated example of what an engineered soil cover might look like.

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