Giant Mine: Pollution How high a price are we paying?

NNSL (OCT 04/96) -Jobs or a clean environment? Which do you want?

That is how Mayor Dave Lovell recently put it at a public meeting.

The short answer is we want both.

We know that Giant mine is spewing 50-65 tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the air daily. Judging by the pathetic state of the trees around the mine, the air is not healthy.

We also know that hundreds of families depend on a Giant paycheque and the city is a better place having them here.

Giant says it can't afford cleaner technology: the mayor says we can't have a clean environment at the expense of a viable mine.

Obviously, he opts for the mine, as do the majority of Yellowknifers, if reluctantly.

Unfortunately, too many of us stop there. While people see the tangible benefits of the mine everyday, it is much more difficult to see the damage to not only the environment but potentially to all Yellowknifers breathing air laden with sulphur dioxide.

The lack of emission controls for arsenic and sulphur dioxide suggests government may be in a similar conflict of interest as Yellowknifers - so hungry for jobs, the environmental damage is neither assessed nor addressed.

This is exactly why we need groups such as Ecology North which just celebrated 25 years raising environmental awareness in Yellowknife and the NWT.

Ecology North members have been leading the way in asking questions about the environmental cost of these jobs and pushing for lower emission levels and government action.

Back in the 70s, they gathered data for a study that found high levels of arsenic in soil, water, snow, fish, hair and nail samples from the Yellowknife area.

The fact that the issue still remains unresolved means there is plenty of work left to do, especially if the cumulative effect of decades of emissions is taken into account.

It's bad enough to be forced to opt for jobs at the expense of the environment. It's unforgivable not to know just how high a price we are paying.