Most abandoned mine sites contain unsecured open holes and tunnels which present hazards to the public. At some mines, signs on Crown and private land identify the locations of open holes and hazards; however, many more of these abandoned mine openings have no warning signs posted. Anyone who may be traveling in an undeveloped area known to potentially contain abandoned mine openings should review the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources Information Circular ME 42, 1995 - A Sign to Watch Your Step.
The Department of Energy and Mines (NSDEM) and the Department of Lands and Forestry have instituted an Abandoned Mine Openings (AMO) Remediation Program to address AMO’s on Crown land. The program is managed jointly by the Regional Services Branch of Lands and Forestry and the Geoscience and Mines Branch at NSDEM. It is overseen by the Executive Directors of the two Branches and the Land Services Branch of Lands and Forestry. Approximately 900 abandoned mine openings have been remediated through the program over the last 18 years.
The AMO Remediation Program is a long-term project, and approximately $50,000 worth of work is completed each year. A listing of AMO areas on Crown land has been prioritized and the work plan for each year is determined primarily based on the priority listing. Other factors are also considered, such as newly discovered hazardous openings or fill settlement in previously remediated, high-priority openings. There are approximately 2,400 documented AMO’s on Crown land in the province. These mine openings are spread across approximately 140 mining areas and each site may host anywhere from a single AMO up to 250 mine openings. AMO hazards range from extremely dangerous to no significant hazard. Most of the AMO’s in the province (including those on private land) have been assigned a hazard rating, ranging from Type I (inescapable) to Type IV (no significant hazard).
The AMO Remediation Program began in 2001, and since that time approximately 650 AMOs on Crown land have been remediated. Methods for remediating AMOs include backfilling, fencing and placement of concrete caps over the mine opening. TIR plays a major role in the AMO Remediation Program, both in carrying out work with its own crews, and in tendering and managing contracted work. In the past 11 years TIR has backfilled more than 200 AMOs, capped four mine openings at Caribou Mines and New Ross, and assisted DNR staff in the placement of a grate to protect a bat habitat at Lake Charlotte. Besides the work conducted by TIR at Lake Charlotte, grates to provide access for bats have also been put in place at Glenelg and Londonderry.
One of the main objectives of the AMO Remediation Program was to remediate all the Type I AMO’s on Crown land, and this was accomplished by the end of 2011. Since the program’s inception in 2001, not only have all the Type I hazards on Crown land been addressed, but approximately 800 less hazardous AMO’s have been remediated as well. Twenty-five private contractors, as well as crews from all regions of the Department of Transportation & and Infrastructure Renewal (NSTIR) have participated in the program.
The mandate of the Abandoned Mine Openings Remediation Program is to address hazards to public safety posed by mine openings on Crown lands. The program is not intended to address reclamation or potential environmental impacts associated with former mine sites.
Methods for remediating AMO’s include backfilling, fencing and placement of concrete caps over the mine openings. NSTIR plays a major role in the AMO Remediation Program, both in carrying out work with its own crews, and in tendering and managing contracted work. In the past 18 years, NSTIR has backfilled almost 300 AMO’s, capped five mine openings at Caribou Mines, Mill Village and New Ross, and constructed a grate to protect bat habitat at Lake Charlotte. In addition to the work conducted by NSTIR at Lake Charlotte, grates to provide access for bats have also been put in place across mine openings at Glenelg, Bass River of Five Islands and Londonderry.
Although not considered part of the AMO Remediation Program, it is worth noting that 140 mine openings on Crown Land have been addressed as part of surface mining operations, the majority of those being in Stellarton, Point Aconi and Moose River Gold Mines.
The Geoscience and Mines Branch conducts field programs to inspect almost all AMO’s on Crown land on a regular basis. The degree of hazard is re-assessed, warning signs and flagging are upgraded as needed and the field inspections are used to update both the AMO Database and the AMO remediation priority list.
In addition to the approximately 2,400 AMO’s on Crown land, there are approximately 6,000 AMO’s on private land in the province.