An environmental assessment is under way by Sherritt International Corp. officials alongside local authorities following an October 31 containment pond breach at the Obed Mountain mine near the Athabasca River in Hinton, Alberta. Local regulators, businesses and residents were immediately notified about the spill, contained on November 2; the cause remains undetermined.

The release was approximately 70% water and 30% suspended solids, mainly clay, soil and coal fines, Sherritt said in a statement. Immediately after the release, a preliminary estimate of the volume leaving the site was 1 million m3. Since then, further examination and independent surveys yielded a revised estimate totaling some 670,000 m3.

The release, along with organic debris it collected in its path, followed two tributaries running approximately 20 km, before entering the Athabasca River, according to company officials. “We have a team of independent fish and hydrology experts conducting water testing at numerous points along the Athabasca River to determine impacts,” said Paula Myson, managing director, investor relations and external communications. “We are expecting results soon and are committed to minimizing any potential environmental impact.”

Sherritt International Corp. is a leader in mining and refining of nickel from lateritic ores with projects and operations in Cuba, Indonesia and Madagascar, in addition to Canada. Sherritt is also a major coal producer in Canada and a top independent energy producer in Cuba, with extensive power operations on the island; Sherritt also provides metallurgical services to mining and refining operations worldwide.