An abandoned mine site has left a toxic legacy near Sachigo Lake First Nation, 700 km northwest of Thunder Bay, according to the community’s consultant.

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Some of the debris left behind at an abandoned mine site owned by Cool Minerals. The company has twice ignored clean-up orders from the province. (Allyne Glidden)

Allyne Glidden said debris from a gold mine that operated at Lingman Lake is troubling for the First Nations people who live nearby.

"There’s hazardous material that has been there for upwards of 40 years," Glidden said. "Certainly some of the concerns of the community are open shafts, open vent raises, giant old generator sets with old PCBs."

Elevated levels of arsenic

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines burned off several barrels of fuel that were left at the site.

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Sachigo Lake consultant Allyne Glidden says the smell of diesel fuel still lingers, along with the debris, decades after the mine at Lingman Lake was abandoned. (Allyne Glidden)

"The emergency measures taken by MNDM’s emergency fuel incineration project have eliminated or greatly reduced the environmental impact risks of the mine site," said Julia Bennett, the media issues co-ordinator for MNDM.

"That means the site now does not require emergency measures."

But Glidden said the smell of spilled diesel fuel persists at the site and recent studies have found elevated levels of arsenic in fish from the lake.

That’s a special concern for people from Sachigo Lake, who rely on fish and animals for food, Glidden said. And it’s making them think twice about mining in general.

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"With new mining activity coming into the area … their greatest concern is for the environment because of their isolation and their remoteness," Glidden said, adding food prices in the fly-in community give people no choice but to hunt and fish for sustenance.

Ministry considers next steps

Since the site is privately owned, it doesn’t qualify for the province’s abandoned mine rehabilitation program, so the current owner, Cool Minerals, is responsible for the clean up.

"At this point, Cool Minerals has failed to comply with the MNDM director’s order for a closure plan and now, most recently, with the court order to file a closure plan," Bennett said.

"MNDM is in the process of considering the next steps in response to the latest non-compliance by Cool Minerals."

According to MNDM, there are currently more than 5,700 known abandoned mine sites in Ontario.