GNWT continues to track Obed Mountain Mine Spill

November 19, 2013
News Releases

YELLOWKNIFE (November 19, 2013) – The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is continuing to the track the Obed Mountain Mine spill into the Athabasca River.

“Currently, there is no cause for concern about the spill in the Northwest Territories,” said Environment and Natural Resources Minister J. Michael Miltenberger. “We are continuing to track the spill and are making preparations for monitoring in the NWT should, or when, the plume moves into the Slave River.”

The spill occurred on October 31, 2013 when an onsite water containment pond was breached at the Obed Mountain Mine near Hinton, Alberta.  The release consisted of a significant quantity of process water, containing water mixed with naturally occurring materials, mainly clay, mud, shale and coal fines.   Testing is being done for contaminants such as such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH); benzene, toluene, ethylebenzene and xylenes (BTEX); metals; and total suspended solids. ASERT reports results of these tests indicate values are quite low as the plume dissipates.

Continued monitoring of the plume movement in the Athabasca River is being done by helicopter.   A team of independent fish and hydrology experts are also conducting water sample tests at numerous points along the Athabasca River to determine impacts on fish and wildlife.

The plume is estimated to arrive at Lake Athabasca between November 29 and December 3. Should flow rates remain the same, the plume could enter the NWT between December 7 and 10.

The majority of water in the Slave River comes from the Peace River.  The Slave River has a mean annual flow rate in excess of 4000 cubic metres per second so further dilution of the plume is expected.

The GNWT was alerted to the spill by Environment Canada’s National Emergencies Centre and Alberta Environment Support and Emergency Response Team (ASERT) and is receiving daily updates on the situation.

“Cooperation is essential for effective environmental monitoring and water management in the Mackenzie River Basin,” said Minister Miltenberger. “We will continue to work with officials in Alberta to monitor this spill and look forward to concluding negotiations on a transboundary water management agreement that will ensure effective coordination between our governments in the near future.”

Information and updates on the Obed Mountain Mine Spill and updates can be found online at:  www.obed.ca.

The GNWT will provide updates as required.

For more information:

Judy McLinton
Manager, Public Affairs and Communications
Environment and Natural Resources
Government of the Northwest Territories
Tel:  867-873-7379
Email:  judy_mclinton@gov.nt.ca