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Hold the bulldozers! Unloved buildings get new purpose

February 4, 2014

Unloved by real estate buyers, four vacant buildings on our Kronau Project site in Saskatchewan have found new purposes in the community.

Materials were reclaimed for charity, landfill was diverted to a local environmental project and two structures were set ablaze as part of firefighter training programs and exercises.

There was never any question of just calling in the bulldozers, according to Kronau site staff.
The four structures were the last of 26 unused residential and farm storage buildings on Vale property put up for sale last July – all the rest of the buildings were sold and have been relocated.

“The Kronau Project team has the utmost respect for former and current landowners in the area. We would never simply abandon a building,” said Kathryn Pollack, land management coordinator for the Project. “Our approach was to first see if any of the buildings or materials might meet with a charitable organization’s needs. Next, we got in touch with the local area volunteer firefighters to see if the buildings were suitable for any training exercises. Our final step was to perform demolition and reclamation of the sites,” she said.

On all counts, the Vale team found innovative ways to benefit the community and the environment including the following initiatives:

Windows and doors from repurposed buildings on Vale’s Kronau Project site were donated to Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. Vale Archive.

Windows and doors from repurposed buildings on Vale’s Kronau Project site were donated to Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. Vale Archive.

Charitable donations. Windows and doors from one house were donated to a local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, with proceeds supporting the charity’s operations of building homes for low-income families.

Waste diversion. Concrete rubble from building foundations was transported 10 miles to the Town of Balgonie and used to shore up a lagoon against erosion in an environmental upgrade project. This diverted 240 loads of waste from landfill.

Firefighter training. Two properties were deemed suitable as sites to train firefighters in vital search and rescue operations and the use of new equipment. Nearly 50 volunteer firefighters participated from five community fire departments and emergency response teams – one of their largest exercises ever.

Local area firefighters use old buildings on the Kronau Project site for firefighting training and exercises. Vale Archive.

Local area firefighters use old buildings on the Kronau Project site for firefighting training and exercises. Vale Archive.

Site clean up. After each building was removed, demolished or burned, a careful reclamation process removed debris and filled excavations with 3,360 cubic metres of clean dirt, graded to the surrounding land. The last project was completed in December 2013.

The Kronau Project performs the reclamation process to clear the land of debris. Vale Archive.

The Kronau Project performs the reclamation process to clear the land of debris. Vale Archive.

“It was very rewarding to see different facets of the community finding value in these materials that would otherwise just be going to the landfill,” said Chris Hartle, senior geologist on the Vale team who took on the responsibility of managing the reclamation work. “In particular, we had been concerned about capacity at the landfill and the Town of Balgonie had been unsuccessful finding material for the lagoon upgrades until our team contacted them; it was really a win-win situation.”

Meanwhile, cleared of buildings, the land will continue to be productive, leased out by Vale to farming and agriculture, even after the mine is built and operational – one of the environmental benefits of solution mining.

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