Polaris Mine : a case study of reclamation in the high Arctic Donald, B. J.
Teck Cominco’s Polaris Mine was the world’s most northerly base metal mine situated in the high arctic of Nunavut. Zinc-lead mineralization was discovered in 1960. Reserves were 25 million tonnes grading 14% zinc and 4% lead. Underground mining commenced in 1981 and continued for 21 years. The mine closed in September 2002 and decommissioning and reclamation started immediately and continued until completion in September 2004. Reclamation of the site was facilitated by favorable geology and climatic conditions. The ore body is hosted in an Ordovician limestone. Samples of representative strata underwent ABA testing confirming there was no potential for acid rock drainage. The site is located in the Northern Arctic Ecozone, an area that incorporates the coldest and driest landscapes in Canada. The permafrost in the area provides an additional mechanism to limit the potential for ML/ARD. Decommissioning and reclamation of the site consisted of building demolition, disposal of metal and hydrocarbon contaminated soils within the permafrost zone, removals of the deep sea marine dock, decommissioning of the tailings facility dam, and recontouring of surface disturbances.
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