Governments spending $25M to clean up uranium mines

A multimillion-dollar cleanup of abandoned uranium mines is expected to start this summer in northern Saskatchewan.

A multimillion dollar cleanup of abandoned uranium mines is expected to start this summer in northern Saskatchewan.

The federal and provincial governments are sharing the $24.6 million cost of cleaning up some 40 mines near Uranium City that were abandoned in the 1950s and 1960s.

The old Gunnar mine, south of the community in the extreme northwest corner of the province, gets the worst marks from Saskatchewan Environment.

The mine buildings are in ruin, four million tonnes of tailings are not properly confined and the waste leaks into nearby lakes, like Lake Athabasca, according to the department.

Most of the money will go to clean up Gunnar, while the rest will be used to clean up 36 smaller abandoned mines.

Different approaches for the cleanup will be taken, depending on the mine, according to Bill Olsen, project manager at Saskatchewan Research Council.

"There are a number of different ways it can be done based on geography, and cement caps is certainly one of them, putting waste rocks in the hole is another one, and for the more remote sites, there is even some foam-type application that can be used," he said.

While there were thousands of people living in Uranium City when surrounding mines were in production, today there's only about 80.

One resident, Adam German, says the work should have been done a long time ago.

"When you leave open mines like that, it's just a danger to everybody, so I'm all for this cleanup thing," he said.

The research council says the smaller mines should be fixed in the next six years. The cleanup of Gunnar should be done by 2015.