Province to clean up abandoned Vancouver Island copper mine

The B.C. government says an abandoned open pit copper mine near Courtenay will be cleaned up to support the recovery of Vancouver Island fish stocks.

An abandoned open pit copper mine near Courtenay will be cleaned up to support the recovery of Vancouver Island fish stocks, the B.C. government says.

"This is the best long-term solution to clean up toxic copper leachate that has been contaminating the headwaters of the Tsolum River for decades," Environment Minister Barry Penner said Monday.

The cleanup effort is expected to bring an estimated $2.7 million annually to the community's economy and improve water quality and return fish to the local watershed, Penner said.

The $4.5-million project is scheduled to be completed by 2010 and includes the installation of a thick roofing-like material that will cover the entire site.

The Mount Washington mine operated for three years in the 1960s before it was abandoned.

By the 1980s, toxic copper leaching from the site had virtually eliminated the salmon, trout and steelhead in the Tsolum River watershed.

The B.C. government funded a cleanup effort of the mine between 1988 and 1991, but it wasn't successful enough to restore fish stocks.

Besides the Environment Ministry, five other partners are involved. They are: Timber West, the Tsolum River Restoration Society, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Environment Canada and the federal Fisheries Department.