Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett, announced on Monday that $2.2 billion is being given for the reclamation of eight Northern mines through the new Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.
The remediation funding will go to reclamation at three sites in the NWT: Giant Mine in Yellowknife, Cantung Mine, west of Nahanni National Park and Great Bear Lake Mines near Port Radium near Great Bear Lake in the Sahtu. The remaining remediation funding will be going to remediation and cleanup efforts at five mine sites in the Yukon.
Roughly $700 million in funding in total will go the three NWT projects over the next 15 years.
“This program will build on the important project planning and the important remediation work that has been ongoing for 15 years,” said Bennett.
“It provides dedicated long-term funding to allow these abandoned mine sites to move forward into active remediation and cleanup.”
All of these sites are the eight largest abandoned mine sites in the territories and “present significant risks to the environment and to human health and safety.”
With various projects at different stages in remediation, Bennett made note of progress already taking place at the Giant Mine site in Yellowknife.
“The Giant Mine Remediation Project socio-economic strategy, which the team is preparing for release, outlines the objectives and approach to ensure that Northern and Indigenous participation in the reclamation while mitigating health and safety risks,” said Bennett.
Bennett said the government will be working with Northern businesses to ensure economic leakage, money and benefits from the projects going south, will not happen.
“Economic leakage … is no longer acceptable,” said Bennett. She said that economic activity in the North, has to reap economic benefits for the North.
Bennett said there will also be close work with Indigenous partners.
“The Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program will continue to promote new economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples and Northerners for years to come,” she said.
Jeff Mackey, director of program management of contaminated sites, said a large portion of how these projects will be executed will involve engagement and consultation with communities.
“We’ve asked (Indigenous communities) how they’d like to be participating in the projects and the economy of the projects,” said Mackey.
“We’ve been challenged and have accepted the challenge to continue to try to do a better job.”
Mackey said each project is different and consultation is not set on a fixed schedule, but communities and Indigenous governments will be involved at “every step” of the project.
MP for the NWT Micheal McLeod, said he’s heard loud and clear what these communities want from the procurement process for the upcoming work.
“We have some mechanisms in place already that would help us move forward ensuring a portion of the work goes to Indigenous companies and governments,” said McLeod.
“We’re still not hitting the mark when it comes to percentage of our work that should go to Indigenous governments and organizations. We want most of this work to stay Northern as much as we can.”
Bennett said it was “sort of sad” that there is this economic opportunity because of this environmental crisis, but these projects will be a large part of the national GDP and Northerners should be able to benefit.
Giant Mine is currently waiting on the approval of a water licence, which is expected in 2020. Full remediation would begin the following year and continue for 10 more years, states government documents.
Remediation at the various sites that make up the Great Bear Lake Mines is expected to go to tender in 2021 and take five years to remediate.
Cantung Mine, located in the southwest corner of the territory, is currently maintaining the site and looking for possible operators to resume mining activities on the visible tungsten and copper deposits before its remediation and closure.