Hudbay plans to spend some $5 million over the next two years to increase storage capacity at its tailings pond near Creighton.
Each year, the company’s Flin Flon mill produces between one million and 1.5 million tonnes of mine waste, known as tailings.
Rob Winton, vice-president, Manitoba Business Unit for Hudbay, said storage capacity at the tailings facility is reviewed annually based on projected mill production rates and water quality.
“As part of ongoing operational requirements, certain construction activities are planned annually in order to meet strict licensing requirements and environmental compliance,” Winton said.
Some residents have wondered how much further north the facility can expand without overtaking the Creighton dump, but Hudbay sees no need to interfere with the landfill.
“The location of the landfill and Hudbay’s long-term tailings storage needs have been designed to ensure ongoing safe operation of the facility and continued use of Creighton’s landfill,” Winton said.
In the early 2000s, many Creightonites were concerned over dried tailings “dust” blowing into the community, but Hudbay has said the problem is long under control.
“There have been very few minor dusting concerns in the last number of years due to the importance placed [on] and [the] success of our dust-control plans,” said Winton.
The tailings facility is formally known as the Flin Flon Tailings Impoundment System (FFTIS).
Hudbay says that name reflects the facility’s wide-ranging design aspects, including filters, drains, water-pumping systems, water-retaining structures and dams with spillways.
In August 2014, the storage of tailings was placed under the national microscope after hundreds of cubic metres of toxic sludge burst through one company’s tailings dam northeast of Vancouver.
In a subsequent interview with The Reminder, Hudbay spokesman Scott Brubacher explained the measures Hudbay has taken to ensure the safety of the FFTIS.
“Dam stability and safety are maintained via ongoing comprehensive operational plans,” Brubacher said, “including the FFTIS operations manual, monitoring programs, internal inspection programs and third-party independent engineering design and inspections.”
Hudbay’s environmental superintendent, Jay Cooper, updated Creighton town council on plans for the FFTIS last week.
The company plans to maintain the FFTIS as long as it has mining operations in the community.