Ministry of Agriculture and Lands

Britannia Mine

Background on Pollution and Remediation Issues

Britannia Mine is one of the largest metal pollution sources in North America. The impact to Howe Sound and local waterways, including the Squamish River, is considered to be significant. The main source of the problem is the naturally occurring metal sulphide ores which have been exposed to air and rain through over seventy years of mining at the site. The resulting chemical and biochemical reactions produce a concentrated acidic, metal-contaminated water, called acid mine drainage (AMD) or more generally, acid rock drainage (ARD).

Until December 31, 2001, AMD has discharged primarily from two tunnels at Britannia Mine: 1) at the 2200 level portal which discharged into Jane Creek and subsequently into Britannia Creek, and 2) at the 4100 level portal which discharges to Howe Sound via a deep outfall. On December 31, 2001, UBC with support from the property owner, completed construction of a concrete plug in the 2200 level tunnel. The 2200 level plug prevents direct discharge of the AMD to Jane and Britannia Creeks, and effectively redirects the AMD to the 4100 level portal.

A detailed table (PDF 7KB) is available to provide a summary of analyses of the discharges to January 2001.

In addition to the AMD from the 2200 portal and the 4100 portal, heavy metal contamination is also noted in the soil and groundwater at the foreshore on Crown lands and on the Britannia Creek fan lands in general, and also in the sediments of Howe Sound.

Soil contamination at the foreshore and in the Britannia Creek fan lands is due to waste rock disposal, concentrate spills, and tailings disposal. Sediment contamination in Howe Sound is a result of the estimated 40,000,000 tonnes of tailings deposited over the life of the mine. Additional locations at the site that have potential contamination include: 2200 waste rock dump, 2700 waste rock dump, Victoria Camp area, Beta Portal area, and municipal landfill.

The following image links provide a visual presentation of pollution and remediation at Britannia Mine. Click on any of the thumbnail images below to bring up the full sized image.

Figure 1 - What is Acid Mine Drainage?

Figure 2 -: Britannia Mine
Pre-Mining Conditions


Figure 3 - Britannia Mine Post-Mining Conditions

Figure 4 - Britannia Mine Necessary Pollution Prevention Measures