The Giant Mine Remediation project will begin in 2021 after Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal gave final approval of the Type A water licence and land use permits on Sept. 16.

The approval followed recommendations made by the Mackenzie Land and Valley Water Board from over the summer.

Photo courtesy of the Giant Mine Remediation Project team. The Giant Mine Remediation Project team, pictured here in September 2018, meet with members of the media regarding the site’s remediation, which will include clean-up work on city leased property on Back Bay over the next decade.

The project team reported this month that there is much preparation work to do before site work begins next year.

“The Project team is working toward starting remediation work in 2021,” stated Myranda Bolstad, communications officer for the remediation project. “Next steps are to finalize our design plans based on the board’s regulatory conditions and to update monitoring and management plans.

“These will be submitted to the board for review and approval before beginning the work.”

The project team will also be tendered the first work packages for the project involving non-hazardous waste landfill, remaining underground stabilization activities and the AR-1 freeze pad.

“In the meantime, the project will continue with regular care and maintenance work and environmental monitoring, required to keep the site safe,” she stated. “In addition, the team is fully committed to continued communication and engagement, which remains an important and valued part of the process as we move forward with the active work.”

Parsons Inc. 

Parsons Inc., which was hired by the project team in February 2018 as the main construction manager, is a U.S. based company.

Its role is to “maintain essential care and maintenance services at the site” and while most of those services are handled by local staff, over the summer work included monitoring for dust and treating water, Bolstad said. This has resulted in the need for highly specialized workers that can only be brought from the south, which presents complications during the Covid-19 pandemic.

To date there have been no cases of Covid-19, she added.

Natalie Plato, deputy director of the Giant Mine Remediation project appeared before Yellowknife city council last March.
NNSL file photo

“Due to the specialized nature of this work, it (has) required subcontractors and other workers from the south,” she said. “While there are air quality monitoring contractor employees who, in previous years, would at times travel from the United States to site, the project has not had any international contractors in recent months given Covid-19 restrictions.”

Any workers who have entered the territories have had to strictly follow measures from the chief public health officer and have been obligated to complete the mandatory 14-day self-isolation prior to beginning work. They have also each had to complete and submit self-isolation plans to the GNWT to receive approval before entering the territory, she said.

The company is also assigned under its contract to meet a long list of procurement demands to ensure Northern and Indigenous workers benefit from the project as much as possible.

Among them include developing an “Aboriginal Benefits Plan,” completing and updating a Labour Capacity Study, structuring work packages and contracts that “maximize opportunities” for Northern and Indigenous businesses.

All subcontracted tenders have to ensure that Indigenous people can provide the services

City of Yellowknife and aggregate rock 

The project team last provided an update to City of Yellowknife council last March at which time Natalie Plato, deputy director of the project, was asked about quarry sources for aggregate rock.  Plato’s presentation happened to take place during a heated debate in the community over Deton Cho’s proposal – approved unanimously in March by council – to develop a quarry near Vee Lake and Ranney Hill.

Part of the idea of that development was to allow Deton Cho – the economic arm of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation –  to extract non-acidic leaching aggregate rock from the site and sell it to the Giant Mine Remediation Project over the next 10 years.

The land required for the quarry is undergoing a transfer from the municipal to the territorial government.

“If and/or when that transfer takes place we will need to go through an application process with the city and other regulatory bodies before being allowed to use the site as a quarry,” John Henderson, CEO of the corporation, stated in an email.

“The potential demand for aggregate at Giant Mine is, and continues to be, a driver for the project. Increases or decreases in anticipated demand affect the business case. Like any business case we evaluate the market and ensure there is adequate demand before proceeding.”

Bolstad stated that as permits are being reviewed for approval, the project team is able to focus on getting a final sense of what borrow material will be required for closure and reclamation activities on site.

John Henderson, chief operating officer for Deton Cho Construction, says land for the quarry at Vee Lake is under transfer from the municipal to the territorial government.  
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

The project team has provided estimates on how much borrow material will be needed for closure and reclamation, she added, as part of the team’s submission for the regulatory process.

“Though these might be adjusted as the team finalizes its design, or as remediation progresses, the project estimates 3.3 million cubic metres of coarse grain borrow material and 580,000 cubic metres of fine grain borrow material will be required,” she stated, most of which will be generated on site, including during the construction of the tailings spillway.

“However, the Project team estimates that an additional 296,000 cubic metres of coarse grain material and 130,000 cubic metres of fine grain material will be required over and above what is generated on site. The source of the borrow material has not been determined, as this will need to be done through an open and transparent procurement process.”

Last March, the project team posted a “request for information” on the Public Works and Government Services website BuyandSell  to see what suppliers in the NWT could provide the project off-site.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story indicated that Minister Dan Vandal had until Nov. 5 to give final approval on the permits recommended by the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board. Vandal gave final approval on Sept. 16.  

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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