Britannia Mine remediation project - community consultation

L. H. Nikl, B. G. Wernick and G. Sinnett

The Britannia Mine remediation program involves the remediation of a former copper and zinc mine near Vancouver, Canada, which operated from 1904 to 1974 and generated over 40 million tonnes of tailings. The tailings were largely deposited into the marine, subtidal slope of Howe Sound along the waterfront of the town of Britannia Beach. Reactive tailings material at the shoreline and the backshore areas have resulted in acidic, metal-rich groundwater, which has impaired the shoreline intertidal ecology. Community consultation is increasingly becoming a requirement of site remediation, especially where risk assessment is involved, so that persons directly impacted can have meaningful input into assessment of risks and ultimately the remediation program. Consultation efforts are often seen as a required component of a technical process, and consultation around contaminated sites tends to focus, in our view, overly so on technical aspects of risks such as assessment endpoints, risk hypotheses and measurement endpoints. Such consultation efforts are at peril of being little more than an unsuccessful technical review, and remediation managers have difficulty in extracting community desires from such a process. We therefore sought information from the community that focused on values, aspirations, and shoreline uses (present and future). The Britannia Beach consultation program included a community wide mail-out of background information, an open house complete with poster stations, hands-on displays of environmental equipment, 'touch-tank' aquaria with intertidal life from exposed and reference locations and a survey process to obtain their feedback. Remediation managers are often driven by environmental legislation and restoring ecological impacts; our results show that broader factors are of greater importance to the community, and the incorporation of these findings into the remediation program is likely to result in greater benefits for the community.

Nikl, L. H., Wernick, B. G. & Sinnett,G. (2011), Britannia Mine remediation project - community consultation. In A. B. Fourie, M. Tibbett and A.Beersing (Eds.), Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Mine Closure – Mine Site Reclamation. Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Lake Louise (pp. 217-226).

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Conference paper
Copper, zinc
Britannia Mine remediation project - community consultation