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Living near a mine can be the pits

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Living next to a mine can really be the pits.

Even in established and historic mining areas, local communities are being challenged with new bigger-than-ever projects and mine expansions that threaten their health, quality of life and properties. Three such communities that have been making news lately are Malartic, Quebec; Keno City, Yukon; and Timmins, Ontario.

Residents of Malartic are neighbours to Osisko's massive low-grade open pit gold mine. Those living next to the mine in the south end of town have just launched a new website. Though the company relocated many residents to make way for the pit, those living outside the relocation area are suffering a range of impacts while the massive pit is in construction.

The home page of the website gives a chronology of events and paints a very different picture of Osisko than that of good neighbour and responsible corporate citizen that it chooses for its self promotion. Despite having had an agreement to negotiate a fair sale of their properties, the residents' group claims that the company has backed out and offered meagre, unacceptable payment for their mine-side properties.

The residents of the southern neighbourhood say that living next to the mine is affecting their quality of life, health, and property values due to the noise, dust, and vibrations. These concerns were heightened during a recent mega-blast by Osisko that was 7 times the size of blasts allowed for in its initial permit. The company is now seeking to get noise restrictions  loosened, stating that it is unable to operate under current restrictions that it agreed to during the environmental assessment process.

[Malartic is the subject of the film the Gold of Others (L'or des autres) - an indie doc worth checking out.]

Meanwhile in the Yukon, Keno City residents are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of attention being paid to their concerns about living next to Alexco's rapidly expanding silver mining operation. Despite having been founded as a mining town, Keno has not seen active mining for decades and is now home to retirees, artists, and tourism operators seeking a little piece of northern tranquillity. 

In response to the concerns of Keno residents, the Yukon Government commissioned a health impact assessment that was just released this week. The consultant that completed the assessment didn't do any of its own field work, relying exclusively on previous reports, mostly done by Alexco. The study found that current monitoring of the area was inadequate, but nonetheless still used the monitoring data to arrive at its findings, suggesting that mitigation and improved monitoring would address residents concerns.

Citizens of Keno were not impressed, especially given new realisations that there have been considerable changes to the town's drinking water in recent months, with metal and sulphate concentrations tripling. We've posted one resident's response here. Another found his way onto Cross Country Check Up on Sunday October 28th. You can hear him speak with Rex at 1:17:24 in the podcast.

Concerns are also increasing in Timmins,Ontario, a town that is no stranger to mining, but where residents now face a huge new open pit development by Goldcorp. The pit would contravene existing provincial guidelines for the proximity of residences to the pit and has raised concerns about possible damage to surrounding buildings, to quality of life, and property values.

A recent article in the Timmins Daily quotes local apartment building owner Bill Hughes who states that he was unable to get insurance against potential damages, adding that engineers he consulted suggest the project may pose serious problems for his building. The article also raises important questions about the role of mining and community development. Once again quoting Hughes: “Why is it that after 100 years [of gold mining], after 100 years and $258 billion [of gold] out, we remain desperate for 150 jobs?”


Mega-blast in Malartic on Oct 27, 2012

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