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Message: Tailings won‘t kill lake: PGM
Tailings won‘t kill lake: PGM

Dumping waste rock from a proposed copper and precious metals mine directly into a Marathon-area lake wouldn‘t destroy the lake, but it would wipe out the existing lake trout fishery, the proponent acknowledges.

“It wouldn‘t kill the lake – God no,” Marathon PGM president Phil Walford said in an interview.

“But it would change it from a cold water fishery to a warm water one, which means you‘d have walleye instead of lake trout.”

Putting about 10 years of spent rock, or tailings, into Bamoos Lake isn‘t the only option the company is considering for its mining waste. It could also create a tailings pond on existing land around the proposed mining site, just north of Highway 17 and Marathon‘s airport.

But a newly formed citizens group is unnerved by the prospect of using the pristine Bamoos Lake as a dumping ground, even though Walford says the concept is not unusual.

“Bamoos Lake‘s 48 million cubic metres of cold water habitat support highly productive, naturally reproducing stocks of lake trout, brook trout and other fishes,” the group says on its website.

“Most mining companies in Canada do not dump their waste into healthy lakes or rivers.”

PGM‘s open-pit mine, to cost $350 million to develop, is expected to create 300 direct jobs, a mere five-minute drive from Marathon‘s downtown.

About 200 people lost their jobs last year when Marathon‘s pulp mill went bankrupt.

The PGM operation will mine copper, palladium, platinum and gold. More than 40 per cent of the mine‘s revenue will come from copper production.

The company is in the process of applying for necessary federal and provincial permits, as well as financing.

Walford, who was in China recently meeting with potential investors, said the company plans to have its Marathon mine in production by 2013.

He said he realizes the prospect of putting mine waste into Bamoos Lake is “an emotional one” and the company is keeping an open mind.

“We are getting feedback, which is a normal part of the (mine development) process,” he said.

Putting the mine‘s waste into Bamoos Lake would not significantly reduce the overall cost of the operation, Walford added.

“In the grand scheme of things, there wouldn‘t be a huge amount of savings,” he said.

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