The Giant Mine remediation project is one step closer in coming to fruition, following the announcement that an oversight body has been selected.
As stipulated in a multi-party environmental agreement signed this past June, members from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, North Slave Metis Alliance, the City of Yellowknife, the government of the Northwest Territories, Alternatives North and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada will come together to represent their party’s interests.
“I was really surprised at how well everyone’s background and experience kind of complimented each other. We do have areas in which there are going to be subject matter experts,” said Todd Slack, nominated to the board by YKDFN. Slack, a 15-year veteran in natural resources industries, is the board’s interim chair; he will be replaced by Dr. Kathy Racher, a water chemistry specialist, in January 2016.
Others on the independent body include vice-chair Dr. Stephan Gabos, a specialist in public health who was nominated by NSMA; secretary treasurer Tony Brown, a civil environmental engineer nominated by the City of Yellowknife; former environmental technician and manager of environmental protection services Ken Hall, nominated by GNWT; Ginger Stones, former director of General Environment under the federal department of National Defence, nominated by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada; and former GNWT employee and current environmental steward David Livingstone, nominated by Alternatives North.
It will be up to the board to promote awareness of the project to the public, provide input and advice from each of the organizations involved and manage a program of research toward a permanent solution for dealing with arsenic at the Giant Mine site.
Currently, the board – which had its first meeting at the end of October – is wrapping up its administrative tasks, with the goal of initiating public involvement in the Giant projects starting February 2016.
“We’ve got a sense of the site and the directors are doing the reviews. They are starting to read up on the projects in their respective areas and then the first public involvement is going to be into February, we’re going to be involved with this design workshop. We’re going to be developing our own work plan and our own budgeting after that,” Slack said.
The board has been assigned to compile and analyze available data relevant to the project, report on and make recommendations regarding programs and plans, promote integration of traditional knowledge into project environmental programs and plans, promote active research toward a permanent solution for dealing with contaminants, including arsenic, at the site, and review environmental and engineering studies conducted related to the site.
“We’re going to be starting to consider the research programs that we’re going to administer, so that’s going to involve a state of the knowledge report and so what we’re trying to do is take a holistic pause here, take a holistic view and think about, what do we know about arsenic trioxide, what is the state of treatment, let’s look around the world and get our folks up to speed. And then the next step after that is, what are the priorities for the best value for the research that we’re going to support?”
The most pressing concern associated with the Giant Mine remediation is the 237,000 tonnes of “highly toxic” arsenic trioxide stored underground, as well as tailings from past activities, which have the potential to contaminate surrounding groundwater.
The board is one of 26 requirements stipulated in the Giant Mine Remediation Project Environmental Assessment (EA) which concluded in August of 2014. In addition to seeking more permanent solutions for the underground contaminants, the EA requires the investigation of options to divert Baker Creek off site and the adoption of stricter effluent water quality criteria.