Britannia Mine copper leaching


in Canada, The environment

A few years ago, I wrote a paper for an essay contest being run by the Fraser Institute, a notoriously right wing think tank in Vancouver. The assignment was to write about a free market solution to an environmental problem, and I suggested that a firm could extract and sell the 450kg of copper leaching out from the Britannia Mine into Howe Sound every day. Because of heavy metal pollution from that source, there is a large marine dead zone just offshore, along the road between the two venues where the 2010 Olympics will be held.

Today, while sitting in my dentist’s waiting room, I read in Time that a company called EPCOR has taken on the project I suggested. I didn’t win the contest, some paper about tradable carbon emissions did, but it’s nice to see that the idea was viable enough to implement in some form. It may be more about public relations than profit – especially since the company is advertising its benevolence – but I am glad to hear that one of the many scourges afflicting that particular marine ecosystem is to be somewhat abated.

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Milan September 30, 2006 at 2:55 am

Page 15 of the October 2006 issue of The Walrus is an advertisement for the same thing.

Milan September 30, 2006 at 2:58 am
. August 2, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Life returns to Howe Sound after Britannia Mine remediation



Algae isn’t always a welcome sight. However, when you’re working to clean up acid mine drainage left over from the British Empire’s biggest copper mine, a little slime is an honoured guest.

When the Britannia Mine closed in the mid-1970s, adjacent Howe Sound was in rough shape.

Located on the rugged British Columbia coastline between Vancouver and Whistler, the waterway was pristine blue, yet devoid of life.

Thanks to nearly a century of mining, the landscape oozed a sickly mixture of sulphide-bearing heavy metals, mostly copper, iron, zinc and aluminum.

This leachate flowed untreated into Howe Sound, wiping out much of the sound’s delicate ecology, down to the last barnacle.

“It was like a glacial lake,” recalled Christian Madsen, B.C. operations manager for Epcor, the company the provincial government retained to co-ordinate the cleanup. “You could see down forever, but the water was clear because it was dead.”

In late 2004, following a bidding process, the B.C. government chose Epcor to design, build and operate a lime-based water treatment plant.

Construction of the $15.5-million facility started in March 2005 and was completed that October.

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