Background on the Proposal to Turn the Adams Mine into a Garbage Dump

Sep 17 1998

The proposal to convert the Adams Mine - an open pit iron ore mine near Kirkland Lake - into a mega dump for Toronto garbage first surfaced in 1989. A decade later, the project has been rejected by previous governments of both Ontario and Toronto, but has been kept "alive" by a private sector promoter.1989 Adams Mine listed as possible landfill for Metro Toronto1990 Metro Toronto selects Adams Mine as a preferred site, and makes financial deal with neighboring municipalities.1992 Province introduces legislation requiring Metro Toronto to deal with solid waste within Greater Toronto Area.1995 Metro Toronto conducts eight month investigation of the Adams Mine as a possible landfill, and rejects project on financial and environmental grounds.1996 Notre Development announces they will pursue the Adams Mine as a "private sector proposal" and begins preparing for environmental assessment.1996 Conservative government makes drastic changes to Environmental Assessment Act, dropping requirement to consider need and alternatives to landfill projects.1997 Notre amends request for land fill approval; project no longer includs recycling or rail transportation, and is for only one of the three pits originally identified.1998 Fast-tracked environmental assessment hearing is announced. The hearing is restricted to one technical question and must be completed within three months.1998 Hearing panel releases decision on June 19. The three person panel issues a split decision, with two members concluding that more tests are required and that the final decision should be made by a Ministry employee; the third member dissented, concluding that the project should be rejected because of environmental and engineering concerns. The Adams Mine Project is a bad design.The concept and costs are unpredictable. A concept of "hydraulic containment" is being promoted, but it has no track record, and -- even with a maximum investment in control technologies -- there will be no confidence, because there is no case history. The Adams Mine site is a bad site.After a quarter of a century of blasting, and given the inherent nature of the rock, the site is extremely fractured; close to the height of land and so at the headwaters for Temiskaming District, the spread of contaminants would be to the water source for 4,000 residents below the Adams Mine, including a thriving farm community which depends on plentiful clean water. There is no willing host.Estimates are that 90-95% of the area residents are opposed to the proposal to use the Adams Mine site as a disposal site for Toronto's solid waste. Being an "unorganized" township means that Boston Township does not have an elected municipal council. It does not mean that other municipal councils beyond its boundaries can make decisions for it. What are the "Top Ten" Concerns?1. Contaminated Groundwater 2. Contaminated Surface Water 3. Bad Design 4. Toxins will bioaccumulate. 5. Negative affects on other businesses, such as tourism and farming. 6. Publicly unacceptable. 7. Undermines waste reduction and recycling. 8. Long term monitoring. 9. Ignores Algonquin land rights. 10. Bad land use. (plus many others under these broad categories) About the Adams MineThe Adams Mine site is located in Boston Township, in Temiskaming District, approximately half way from Lake Ontario to Hudson's Bay. Over six hundred kilometres north of Toronto, the area is part of traditional Algonquin territory, and research is now being completed by the Algonquin Nations of Lac Temiskaming, Barrier Lake and Wolfe Lake to provide the record of land use for the federal comprehensive land claims process. Located just a few kilometres south of the height of land which divides the Great Lakes watershed from the Arctic watershed, water from the site migrates via the Missena and then the Blanche River into Lake Temiskaming and then down the Ottawa River. The Concept: "Hydraulic Trap Containment"Notre Development is promoting an unproven technology called "hydraulic trap containment". The theory is that all ground water will flow into the pits, which will be filled with garbage. The water will move through or beside the garbage, becoming contaminated waste water called "leachate". The leachate will be collected at the bottom of the pits, pumped out, and sent through a waste water treatment process before being released into the nearest river. But here are the most obvious problems:

  • Despite the theory that all ground water will flow in, local experience and observation and a basic understanding of hydro-geology tell us that the groundwater will also flow out of the site; many expect that the leachate horizontally out of the pit, into local wells and rivers.
  • The landfill will generate toxics for 300 years; the contaminants will have a lifespan of 1000 years.
  • The pumps and pipes can be expected to fail. There are no examples of any technology working consistently for a century, and the example Notre claims is similar (at Rabbit Lake uranium mine, in northern Saskatchewan) has already had a massive spill and release of untreated waste water.
  • Even if the technology work as Notre says it will (remember - that's just their theory), the proposal will still result in millions of gallons of treated leachate being released into the Messima River. The water will not be treated for all the toxics, and it will not even remove all of the short-list of contaminants that the water is being treated for.

Summary of Evidence in the Environmental Assessment Hearing

  • There is no "real world" proof that the gravel blanket and drainage pipes, upon which the design depends, will last for 1000 years. The Board heard testimony that the conclusions about the lifespan of this essential component are based on the partial results of tests conducted in a laboratory.
  • The rock structures had not been thoroughly investigated. Water levels varied greatly in the single test hole drilled beneath the pit, indicating a possible escape route for contaminants.
  • Mineral development in surrounding areas would be jeopardized. Sinking a shaft or pit near the dump site would change the flow of the groundwater and could cause contaminants to escape from the site.
  • Notre's proposed plan would cause a vast area of mine tailings to be flooded for at least 1000 years. The tailings containment area at the Adams Mine was not designed to be maintained in this manner. No evidence was given at the hearing to indicate how often the large concrete dams that contain the tailings would have to be replaced or how this job could be accomplished.
  • The fractured rock surrounding the Adams Mine has no ability to absorb any of the chemicals or heavy metals that will be present in the waste water produced by the dump. Failure in Notre's theoretical design would result in serious contamination of ground and surface water resources.