BAIE VERTE, NL — Baie Verte Mayor Brandon Philpott says it’s time for all key players to start talking about the open pit and exposed asbestos fibres at the former Advocate Mines site again.
His comment came following Canada’s recent action toward its promised ban of the use, sale, import and export of asbestos and products containing that hazardous material.
The federal health and environment departments are supporting changes to eliminate the market for asbestos products in the country.
The proposed regulations include an exemption to allow for cleanup of asbestos residue around former mines in an attempt to redevelop the sites.
Regulations specifically refer to 800 million tonnes of mining residues in the province of Quebec, but do not mention Newfoundland and Labrador or the former mine in Baie Verte.
Mining residues can contain valuable metals such as magnesium.
The announcement also notes rehabilitation plans for mine sites and mining residues are authorized by provincial governments.
Philpott wonders what this announcement and subsequent actions could mean for the mine and area.
“One of the exposed sides of that open pit mine, I was told, had enough asbestos to supply all of the exports that Canada had going out for over 30 years,” he said. “You have wide-open fibres down there on the side of that pit, if that turns into a grant or a fund.
“We have an open pit mine that has been on the backburner for so long, I think it is time to look at that again.”
The mayor said previous councils and community members have lobbied for site cleanup or additional economic activity in the past.
Asbestos tailings have been a resource for operations in Quebec — namely in Asbestos, Que. Tailings are mined for magnesium.
In the mid-2000s, the provincial government underwent two phases of an environmental site assessment at both the former Baie Verte and Rambler Mines properties.
In 2008 and 2009, the provincial government committed to removing deteriorating buildings, fuel tanks, and contaminated soil and chemicals over a three-year program.
The Department of Natural Resources reported at the time that it would cost about $10 million for the cleanup.
“At the Baie Verte mine there are over 190 million tonnes of waste rock and 47 million tonnes of tailings were produced,” Alex Smith, a department representative, told the congregation at the 22nd Annual Baie Verte Mining Conference in 2009.
The Nor’wester made multiple requests to the provincial department for information and/or interviews on the status of the former Advocate Mines. The initial request was acknowledged, but a subsequent request went unreturned.