Yesterday’s spills cause today’s fears in Faro

FARO Metafina Chemicals never produced usable batches of chemicals in its Faro plant. But enough chemicals were spilled on the property to spark a…


Metafina Chemicals never produced usable batches of chemicals in its Faro plant.

But enough chemicals were spilled on the property to spark a fearful reaction in residents.

Faro is working with the territory to clean up the site and determine if, and how badly, the site is contaminated.

“We don’t know how much still exists,” said Deborah Pitt, acting senior project manager for the Faro mine reclamation project.

“We know for sure there were spills on site.”

The property is secure and there have been signs of contamination off site, she added.

Metafina produced chemicals from 1987 to 1990 for use at the Faro mine.

The chemicals, called xanthates, were to be used to separate minerals in the milling process.

Acute exposure to xanthate could be harmful, said Pitt.

But the small plant closed in 1990 before any chemicals could be used.

“They never did produce viable lots of chemicals,” said Pitt.

In 1996, the territory paid for the removal of 25,000 litres of xanthate after residents raised concerns about contamination.

But fears didn’t fade away.

Former employees revealed some careless practices at the plant, which included numerous spills.

The site, which is now the territory’s responsibility after ownership changed several hands, has been a town concern for a long time.

The town wants to clear up the uncertainty of the project, said Mayor Michelle Vainio.

“All we’ve asked for is for (the territory) to check for contamination,” she said.

“It’s not a major concern.”

The only worry is that an entrepreneur is missing out on a great piece of property, said Vainio.

The Metafina cleanup is part of the Faro Mine Complex billion-dollar reclamation project.

“It’s not directly associated with the mine, but it’s close enough,” said Pitt.

There have been several cleanup attempts, but what actually needs to be cleaned is still not clear.

“We need a definite idea of what’s happening on the site,” said Pitt.

The town applied for funding through the Northern Strategy Trust for environmental assessment of the property.

Fieldwork begins this year after the town received $49,000 for the work.

Assessment includes testing of surface and ground water and soil to determine if and how the site is contaminated.

Then the site will be cleaned up if necessary and prepared for development.

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