Tropical oasis in N.B.? Nope — just remnants of Minto's mining history

·3 min read
Several bodies of water at a former coal mining site just outside Minto appear turquoise in colour. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)
Several bodies of water at a former coal mining site just outside Minto appear turquoise in colour. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)

Turquoise pools of water that look like they could be featured in a travel brochure promoting a tropical getaway aren't a ruse to get tourists: they're simply a reminder of a rural New Brunswick village's history.

Hidden from the general public, the blue-green glow of the pools catches the attention of anyone riding a mountain bike or driving an ATV on the trails just outside Minto.

But this isn't a classified tropical oasis. It's a remnant of the coal mining that was once a prominent industry in the area.

"It goes back hundreds of years," said Greg Smith, a village councillor and newly elected deputy mayor of Minto.

Smith worked in the industry for more than 20 years as a maintenance supervisor until the coal mining stopped in the area in 2010.

Part of his job was to dig the cavities in the ground to extract the coal.

Greg Smith worked in the coal mining industry for more than 20 years.
Greg Smith worked in the coal mining industry for more than 20 years. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Once the work was finished, the holes naturally filled up with water, leaving dozens of ponds behind on the wooded property.

"Every one of these bodies of water are man-made — there's hardly any natural ones here," he said, adding that some of the ponds are more than 30 metres deep.

The colours of the more picturesque ponds range from sharp green to baby blue.

Allison Enright, an assistant professor of aqueous and environmental geochemistry at the University of New Brunswick, has studied the water at the former coal-mining site.

The turquoise water has become a favorite backdrop for pictures.
The turquoise water has become a favorite backdrop for pictures. (Gary Moore/CBC)

She said there are tiny sediment particles in the water, remains from the mining activity and invisible to the naked eye.

"They tend to stay floating or suspended within the water of the lake, and then this interacts with the light on the surface and in the water body to give you this really bright blue colour," she explained.

As for why some of the ponds are a different colour blue, Enright said it just depends how much sediment is in each body of water.

Despite the peculiar hues, she said, it's not dangerous.

"In this area, over several decades of efforts to remediate, the pH of this water has been made completely safe," she said.

As far as swimming goes, Enright said it's safe to do so, but it may not be a pleasant experience.

"I don't think it would smell very good, I don't think it would taste very good, and you might come out kind of chalky and then really want to shower."

Some of the water looks a deeper turquoise than others, depending on the amount of sediment in each pond.
Some of the water looks a deeper turquoise than others, depending on the amount of sediment in each pond. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Enright said wildlife, including fish, ducks and geese, are now thriving in and around the ponds.

Greg Smith said the water is a reminder of the community's connection to the mining industry, and provides a scenic backdrop for the popular network of mountain bike and ATV trails built on the land.

"It's quite an attraction for people. These are all just like little lakes, they're small little lakes you know. And they change colour all the time, they're beautiful."

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