British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposia

Bluebell Mine : remediation of a historic mine site Donald, B. J. 2009

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Proceedings of the 25th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Campbell River, BC, 2001. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation BLUEBELL MINE - REMEDIATION OF A HISTORIC MINE SITE BJ. Donald, P.Eng., Teck Cominco Metals Ltd. WJ. Kuit, Teck Cominco Metals Ltd. and N.L. Sandstrom, P.Eng., Morrow Environmental Consultants Inc. Teck Cominco Metals Ltd., 500 - 200 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC Morrow Environmental Consultants Inc., 1125A Industrial Road #3, Cranbrook, BC ABSTRACT The Bluebell Mine was a lead, zinc and silver mine discovered circa 1820 that had been exploited by a number of owners until its final closure in 1972. It is located in the hamlet of Riondel, BC. Kootenay Lake surrounds the mine site on three sides. Cominco Ltd. acquired the surface and mineral rights in the 1930s and operated a mine and concentrator from 1952 to 1972. The mine was reclaimed to the standards of the day upon closure. In 1997, Cominco initiated a series of phased investigations to identify potential environmental and public safety issues at the site. The site contains waste rock dumps, process fines (residual tailings and concentrates) and deposits of Mine Water Discharge (MWD) fines that had been pumped to surface during mine operations. The process fines and MWD fines existed both on land and in Kootenay Lake, including the foreshore areas of Galena and Bluebell Bays. The site had surface and groundwater issues related to both Acid Rock Drainage (ARD) and neutral pH metal leaching (ML). In 2000, Cominco initiated a remedial program to substantially improve both the environmental and public safety aspects of the site. The Phase 1 program in 2000 focused on the remediation of the contaminated soils and ARD/ML issues in upland areas of the site. Phase 2 work initiated in the first half of 2001 focused on removal of potential ARD generating materials from the foreshore and near shore areas of Galena and Bluebell Bays. During the second half of 2001, the objectives are to address outstanding Phase 1 issues and potential hazards from near surface mine workings. A program to monitor and confirm the resulting improvements in the environmental quality of the soils, surface and groundwater at the site has been initiated. INTRODUCTION The Bluebell Mine was operated by a number of companies early in its history and by Cominco from 1952 to 1972. The mine held one of the early Reclamation Permits under the Mine Act and was reclaimed to the standards of the day upon closure. Since closure in 1972, Cominco has continued to own and manage the site. Internal reviews identified a number of environmental and public safety issues that Teck Cominco is committed to address. 1  In July 2001, Cominco Ltd. (Cominco) and Teck Corp. Ltd. merged to form Teck Cominco Metals Ltd. (Teck Cominco). 182 Proceedings of the 25th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Campbell River, BC, 2001. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation In 1997, Cominco retained Morrow Environmental Consultants Inc. (MECI) to complete an Environmental Site Assessment of the Bluebell Mine. The assessment provided the data necessary to plan a remedial program with the objective of substantially improving the environmental quality of the site. The remedial program is being completed as Independent Remediation as defined under the Contaminated Sites Regulation1 (CSR) and under other terms and conditions agreed to with provincial and federal regulators. All assessment work has been completed in a phased manner where data from early work directs and supports subsequent work. Work done in 1997 provided an "environmental perspective" of the mill areas and Galena and Bluebell Bays. In 1998, 1999 and 2000, the understanding of site conditions was improved by additional intrusive investigations. Remedial work at the site began in August of 2000 and targeted the terrestrial portion of the site, while work in early 2001 focused on the foreshore areas of Galena and Bluebell Bays. During the balance of 2001, the security of the mine openings will be assessed and upgraded, the environmental remediation will be refined based on confirmatory sampling results, and the site will be revegetated upon completion. HISTORY AND SETTING The Bluebell Mine is located on the east shore of Kootenay Lake in the trench between the Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges in southeastern British Columbia. The mine occupies the Riondel Peninsula stretching approximately 1,700 metres from north to south. The Village of Riondel abuts the site along its eastern edge. The Bluebell Mine produced lead, zinc and silver. Rocks on the Riondel Peninsula comprise a north-trending and a steep west-dipping succession of Lower Cambrian quartzites, pelitic schists, calcareous schists, and marble. The Bluebell ore deposit consists of three main zones spaced approximately 500 metres apart along the strike of the Badshot marble: the Comfort zone at the north end of Riondel Peninsula, the Bluebell zone in the centre, and the Kootenay Chief at the south end. The ore consists of galena, sphalerite, pyrrhotite, pyrite, arsenopyrite, and chalcopyrite. The gangue occurring with the sulphides consists of carbonates, coarsely-grained quartz and knebelite, an iron manganese silicate." 183 Proceedings of the 25th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Campbell River, BC, 2001. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Production of ore from the Bluebell zone commenced under the ownership of the Kootenay Mining and Smelting Co. in 1895. A concentrator was built on the shore of Bluebell Bay ("Old Mill") in 1908. The Bluebell claims changed ownership several times between 1905 and 1924. Only lead concentrates were produced during this period. The Bluebell ore zone was initially developed by open pit mining in the Glory Hole. As mining progressed, a tunnel was driven in from Bluebell Bay, a shaft was sunk on the Comfort Claim and an adit was driven on the Kootenay Chief Claim. High zinc tailing from the concentrator at the Old Mill was discharged to Kootenay Lake at a point west of Bluebell Bay. The tailing (containing zinc), consisted of both hand sorted waste and, later, rejects from jig tables. Mine waste rock was used to develop level areas at the shore of Bluebell Bay (i.e., dumped into the lake). Operations at the Old Mill were suspended in 1927. Ore mined by pre-Cominco interests totalled approximately 500,000 short tons. The Bluebell property and adjacent Kootenay Chief and Comfort claims were bought by Cominco in approximately 1931. The mine was dormant from this time until Cominco initiated an exploration program in 1942. The results of the exploration program resulted in construction of a concentrator on the shore of Galena Bay ("New Mill") and development of a new shaft beside the mill. Production of lead and zinc concentrates commenced in 1952. Concentrates were loaded into rail cars on barges from a dock on the west side of Galena Bay, towed to Procter, and then transferred on to the Canadian Pacific Railway line and taken to Cominco's smelter in Trail, BC. The finer fraction of the tailing (i.e., slimes) was subaqueously disposed via a launder into the south end of Galena Bay. The coarser fraction of tailing was used to backfill underground slopes. Waste rock was deposited primarily at the northeast quadrant of the New Mill site. Mine water pumped from the No. 1 Mine Shaft was discharged to the eastern edge of the mill area and drained downslope to the east lobe of Galena Bay. The mine water contained suspended solids generated during the mining process and dissolved calcium bicarbonate generated from limestone deposits and geothermal water in the mine. Calcium carbonate precipitated when exposed to the atmosphere, developing a deposit of Mine Water Discharge (MWD) fines at the southeast quadrant of the New Mill area. Approximately 5,318,000 tons of ore were mined between 1952 and 1972. 184 Proceedings of the 25th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Campbell River, BC, 2001. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation SITE QUALITY AND CONTAMINANTS OF CONCERN The site soil quality has been evaluated in relation to Residential and Industrial land use (RL/DL) standards contained in the CSR. Groundwater standards have been compared to the Aquatic Life (AW) standards contained in the CSR. Surface water quality has been compared to the BC Criteria1". Various other criteria and guidance documents published by the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection (MWLAP) (formerly known as the Ministry of Environment, Lands & Parks), Environment Canada (EC) and scientific sources have also teen referenced. Information regarding the site quality and waste distribution has been obtained by a variety of methods including: • Historical research; • Stressed vegetation inventory; • Geophysical methods; • Aerial photography; • Surface soil sampling; • Test-pitting; • Drilling; • Groundwater sampling; • Creek sampling; • Lake water sampling; • Benthic invertebrate sampling; • Fish sampling; • Lake sediment coring; • Lake sediment grab sampling; • Underwater video survey; • Calculation of wave heights. Once samples were collected, they were subjected to a variety of analyses including grain size distribution, total and leachable metals in soils, ARD/ML characteristics (i.e., acid base accounting, pétrographie analysis, humidity cell testing), dissolved and total metals in ground and surface water, indicator parameters in water (acidity/alkalinity, nitrate, total organic carbon, sulphate), sediment quality triad analysis (chemistry, toxicity and benthic community analysis), metal concentrations in biota tissue and acid volatile sulphides/simultaneously extracted metals in sediment. Organic contaminant analyses were also completed in areas with hydrocarbon impacts. The above described work was completed by the following consultants: • Morrow Environmental Consultants Inc. - design and completion of terrestrial site assessment work, remedial action plan, confirmatory sampling, environmental monitoring, reporting and co-ordination of other consultants. 185 Proceedings of the 25th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Campbell River, BC, 2001. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation • EVS Environmental Consultants Ltd. - assessment of aquatic environment. • Westmar Consultants Inc. - beach design. • Steffen Robertson & Kirsten (Canada) Inc. - review of ARD/ML characterization work. • Harris Exploration Services - mineralogical examination. • Frontier Geosciences Inc. - geophysical survey. Based on the site assessment work, the site wastes were divided into categories in accordance with their contaminant concentrations and potential to impact the environment. Table A summarizes the main contaminant groups. TABLE 1: Potential Contaminants of Concern at the Bluebell Mine Site  186 Proceedings of the 25th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Campbell River, BC, 2001. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation   187 Proceedings of the 25th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Campbell River, BC, 2001. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  A in relation to the previously identified standards/criteria. SITE REMEDIATION Regulatory Approval Process The site assessment results and the development of staged remedial plans were presented to the Kootenay Mine Development Review Committee (KMDRC). The KMDRC is chaired by the MEM and has representation from a number of government ministries and non-government stakeholders. Through the KMDRC, discussions were held with the MWLAP (several branches), EC (who in turn interfaced with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans), the Ministry of Transportation & Highways, and the Canadian Columbia River Inter-tribal Fisheries Commission. The co-ordination of the review and the approval process through the KMDRC ensured that all the parties were informed, and had input into the plans, and this prevented duplication of reviews and comments. This was important as in excess of a dozen permits, approvals, authorizations and variances were required for the remedial work program. Two local 188 Proceedings of the 25th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Campbell River, BC, 2001. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation community open houses and a public meeting were held to inform the local residents of the plans and to address any concerns or issues. Phase 1 Terrestrial Remediation The Phase 1 remedial action commenced in late August 2000 and proceeded until early December 2000. Table 2 summarizes the work completed. TABLE 2; Summary of Phase 1 Remediation Work  Confirmatory soil samples were collected using several site specific protocols after the completion of remedial activities to document the success of the effort and to identify "hot spots" that could be reasonably targeted for additional remedial action in 2001. Samples were submitted for analysis of the primary contaminants of concern (As, Pb and Zn) and/or total metals. Samples from hydrocarbon remedial excavations were submitted for analysis of BETX/VPH4, and/or LEPH/HEPH to document closure to the CSR RL standards. A water management program was required to prevent the discharge of silt and metal-containing water to Kootenay Lake. The management plan included the diversion of Hammil Creek around the work area in a high-density polyethylene pipe and the collection of groundwater seepage. Groundwater seepage was collected by a temporary dyke located at the high water line in the east foreshore of Galena Bay. Seepage was pumped to the No. 1 Shaft. The effluent was sampled on a weekly basis to ensure quality remained within that specified in the MWLAP Approval. 1  BETX / VPH = benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylenes / volatile petroleum hydrocarbons 189 Proceedings of the 25th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Campbell River, BC, 2001. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Approximately 9,200 m3 of water were pumped into the No. 1 Mine Shaft during the Phase 1 work. Phase 2 Foreshore Remediation The design for the Phase 2 foreshore remedial action was completed in December 2000 and January 2001. Design challenges included: • Determining the depth to which waves and currents could cause lateral movement of submerged process fines (i.e., the necessary depth of excavation or extent of soil cover); • Designing a beach that would be stable and resist becoming recontaminated should process fines be mobilized due to wave action (i.e., be self cleaning); • Selection of a cost effective remedial approach that would allow excavation to proceed below low water and would minimize the release of turbid water to Kootenay Lake; • Identification of and development of a gravel pit and quarry; and • Presentation of the Sediment Remediation and Contingency Plan to the KMDRC and obtaining all necessary approvals and permits by early March, such that commencement of work would coincide with seasonal low lake water levels in early April. The above challenges were met and the Phase 2 remediation of the foreshore of Bluebell and Galena Bays commenced the third week of March as summarized in Table 3. TABLE 3: Summary of Phase 2 Remedial Action  190 Proceedings of the 25th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Campbell River, BC, 2001. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  FOLLOW UP PHASE 1 REMEDIAL EXCAVATION WORK AlSfD POST REMEDIATION MONITORING The Phase 1 confirmatory sampling program data was evaluated as the Phase 2 remedial program was being completed. The review determined that the CSR RL standards for soils were being approached at the New Mill area. At the Old Mill site, all mine wastes above the low water level have been removed, however, the underlying soils contain metals concentrations above the CSRIL standards. Background sampling suggests that some of the metals are naturally occurring. Along the tailing backfill pipeline route, sampling and visual observations indicated that traces of process fines were intermittently present. Accordingly, an additional 0.3 m of peat was removed from the entire route. Closure to the CSR standards is not anticipated in this area as elevated background metal concentrations were identified during the assessment work. 191 Proceedings of the 25th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Campbell River, BC, 2001. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Assessment of near surface and exposed mine workings is currently underway. Once the remedial activities at the site are completed in fall 2001, a re vegetation plan will be implemented. A series of groundwater monitoring wells were installed across the site to replace wells lost during remedial excavation work and to refine the site hydrogeologic model. Monitoring of water quality in the monitoring wells, Hammil Creek and Kootenay Lake will continue for several years according to a schedule defined in the Sediment Remediation and Contingency Plan submitted to the KMDRC as part of the Phase 2 approval process. i     Waste Management Act, Contaminated Sites Regulation (CSR), [includes amendments up to BC Reg. 244/99, dated 1999 07 19], BC Reg. 375/96, deposited 1996 12 16, Q.C. 1480/96, effective 1997 04 01. ii    Hoy, Trygve  (1980): Geology of the Rionidel Area, Central Kootenay Arc, Southeastern British Columbia, BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Bulletin 73. iii    British Columbia Water Quality Guidelines (Criteria) - 1998 Edition for freshwater Aquatic Life (BCWQG AL) and/or Compendium of Working Water Quality Guidelines for British Columbia: 1998 Edition for freshwater Aquatic Life (Compendium). 192

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