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Giant Mine top federal priority
Recent report lists mine as an 'extremely expensive cautionary tale'

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 11, 2012

Giant Mine will eventually cost $1.9 million a year, forever.

The site is also one of the most contaminated in Canada, according to a report presented May 8 by Scott Vaughan, Canadian commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

While there are thousands of identified contaminated sites across Canada, most of the funding is applied towards the four top priority sites: Giant Mine, Faro Mine in the Yukon and two radioactive sites in Port Hope, Ont.

For now, the annual budget for Giant Mine varies based on what projects and initiatives are being undertaken.

So far, the Canadian government has budgeted $640 million for Giant Mine alone.

The commissioner pointed out that the chances of a disaster like Giant Mine happening again are slim.

"A lot of the operations on these four sites were happening before environmental assessments."

Vaughan had the opportunity to visit Giant Mine, heading deep underground into the tunnels.

Although he wasn't there to audit the specific happenings at the mine, he said it helped give an idea of the scope and magnitude of the Giant Mine site.

"It's an extremely expensive cautionary tale," said Vaughan. "No one wants to return to the past."

During his visit to Giant Mine, Vaughan says he was struck by a few things.

"The first was the amount of consultation and communication with members of the community and the public," he said.

"They take this consultation process very seriously."

He pointed to the collaboration between the Giant Mine Remediation Project and various independent groups and interested residents.

The commissioner's report detailing the funding and treatment of contaminated sites across Canada was released during a time that Adrian Paradis, project manager for the clean-up project, calls "the most challenging season on the site."

With the temperature warming and ice melting, Baker Creek that flows through the mine site is constantly monitored ensuring that there's no contamination.

Tailings dust control is also about to start. The program is typically initiated in June and uses soil cement to cover tailings ponds and roads.

"It's a big task each year," said Rob Girvin, who monitors Baker Creek and aspects of the care and maintenance program.

"When they dry in the warmer weather, dust can pick up. Soil cement is a dust suppressant that makes an impermeable layer, it only lasts one season though."

Fred Sangris, a former chief of Ndilo, said there are still a lot of issues that he feels haven't been properly addressed.

"We're in the earthquake zone," he said. "What happens if there's an earthquake with all the arsenic underground?"

Sangris feels the Yellowknives Dene haven't been included in the process to the extent they should be.

"We've seen so much illness and death," said Sangris. "Ottawa has to be accountable."

In an upcoming report, Vaughan will be examining the responsibilities and requirements of the federal government, specifically with guaranteeing bonds related to the forever nature of the Giant Mine site.

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