In the environmental assessment (EA) field there is often more examples of poor follow-up in the mining industry than there is of a job well done. This is not because we are a pessimistic profession, but rather that there are few positive examples to refer to when discussing EA necessities such as community consultation, adequate monitoring and rehabilitation of project sites. The copper mine rehabilitation by Xstrata Copper Canada in Murdochville, Quebec, is an encouraging example of these EA essentials being conducted where restoration initiative is not ignored or deemed “unfeasible”.
The town of Murdochville began with the “Mines Gaspe” in 1953 where mining booms brought many people to the region. The mine was open for over 50 years where the community was socially and economically prosperous due to its presence, but since 2002 all activities have ceased (Xstrata Copper, n.d., p. 3). A video to visualize the mining town is seen below:
Company town- Murdochville in photographs
Quebec history reveals that with the closing of a mine in a mining community, barren communities, massive holes, high unemployment rates and emigration result. Xstrata has attempted to prevent this in Murdochville where between 2006 and 2010 the rehabilitation of the mine was conducted costing Xstrata 130 million dollars (Xstrata Copper, n.d., p.7). The rehabilitation project is overviewed in the video below:
Rehabilitation of Mines Gaspe in Murdochville
In EA we expect proponents to take community and environmental health to heart. In this rehabilitation project, Xstrata remediated 736 property soils, provided employee assistance, transferred land and services to the town as well as employed monitors to ensure that reclamation was effective and meaningful (Xstrata Copper Canada, n.d., p. 11 & 23). The dismantling avoided environmental and human health risks (p. 11) where the main focus was social responsibility, restoration of water channels as well as treatment and removal of waste products (p. 13). They were open and transparent by consulting with the community, sending out regular bulletins, employing local contractors, performing multiple assessments and getting numerous governmental approvals where a total of 46 permits were attained; the area was officially rehabilitated as of 2010 (p. 3 & 9).
With the rehabilitation of this mine, Murdochville now has the opportunity to reposition themselves socio-economically. They will retain their mine attraction to enable continuous visitations of up to 10, 000 visitors/year visit (Costisella, 2012), make use of the wind energy industry (Landry, 2012) and focus on the diverse industry of tourism and recreation (Ville de Murdochville, n.d.). This example demonstrates how a company town can be born and grow around a mine, but with proper follow through of environmental assessment the community can live on post mining. Xstrata Copper Canada set a benchmark for rehabilitation and environmental assessment processes in Murdochville where, responsible mining can promote positive outcomes even when moving away from the mining industry.
Murdochville’s touristic focus today
Note: As of 2012 the Petrolia oil company is in the exploratory drilling phases close to Murdochville (Petrolia, 2013). Hopefully they will follow this example of responsibility. The region is beautiful, I recommend a visit!
Costisella, M – S. 2012 (November 24). Le Centre d’interprétation du cuivre de Murdochville renaîtra de ses cendres. Retrieved from http://tvanouvelles.ca/lcn/infos/regional/estduquebec/archives/2012/11/20121124-155927.html.
Landry, J-S. 2012 (December 20). Les gens d’affaires de Murdochville réagissent. CHAU : TVA. Retrieved from http://chau.teleinterrives.com/nouvelle-regional_Les_gens_d_affaires_de_Murdochville_reagissent-3451.
Petrolia. 2013. Petrolia Bourque Project: Oil from here by people from here for here. Retrieved from http://bourque.petroliagaz.com/en.
Ville de Murdochville. n.d. Ville de Murdochville: Au Coeur de la Gaspesie. Retrieved from http://www.murdochville.com/?id=1&titre=Tourisme.
Xstrata Copper Canada. n.d. Xstrata- Closing the Murdochville Site. Retrieved from http://www.xstratacopper.com/EN/Publications/Other%20Publications/Closing%20the%20Murdochville%20Site.%20Leaving%20a%20Positive,%20Sustainable%20Legacy%20(English)%20-%20July%202011.pdf.