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Northwest Territories chapter attends Giant Mine Oversight Board public meeting

Chapter activist Lois Little was at the Giant Mine Oversight Board meeting on May 16.

The Council of Canadians Northwest Territories chapter attended a public meeting earlier this week about the environmental impacts of the Giant Mine.

The chapter has posted on Facebook, “The public seems to have growing confidence in the Giant Mine Oversight Board but it is clear that the Board has no authority to compel action. That’s where the rest of us come in. Speak out to make sure that all who visit and live in Chief Drygeese Territory are safe.”

The Giant Mine Oversight Board, a body established to monitor the cleanup of Giant Mine, held its first public meeting on May 16 in Yellowknife.

CBC reports, “The main worry about Giant Mine for people living in the Yellowknife area is no longer the 237-thousand tonnes of highly toxic arsenic stored underground at the mine — it’s the arsenic in their children’s playgrounds and city lakes. ‘It’s a really hard thing to live with, that our kids are contaminated, day in and day out’, said Margaret Erasmus, a Yellowknives Dene member and one of the founders of Kalemi Dene School in Ndilo. Speaking at the first public meeting of the Giant Mine Oversight Board, Erasmus was referring to one of the so-called arsenic ‘hot spots’ near the only school in the community.”

That article adds, “During more than half a century of mining, 19,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide dust went up the stacks of smelters at the Giant and Con gold mines. Con mine is a former gold mine that flanks the city. The poisonous dust settled on the once-pristine land and lakes in and around Yellowknife. One teaspoon of it is enough to kill an adult. …According to officials at Tuesday’s meeting, the discussion was prompted by recent research that suggests much of the arsenic emitted by Giant in its early days, before any pollution controls were installed, is still in the soil and lake sediment in the area.”

And it notes, “Previously the federal government took the position that it was responsible for containing the arsenic stored below ground — a job it estimates will cost upward of a billion dollars — and the territorial government was responsible for surface contamination. But the new research shows much of the arsenic that’s in the area was emitted by the mine before the formation of a territorial government.”

Furthermore, the CBC reports highlights, “The risks the mine poses to the city’s drinking water was another issue raised at Tuesday’s meeting of the Giant Mine Oversight Board. Since 1968 the city has been drawing its drinking water through an eight-kilometre underwater pipe to the Yellowknife River, upstream of Giant Mine. The pipe is now deteriorating. The city estimates it will cost $20 million to replace it. As a cost saving measure, it’s now considering a plan to retrofit its new water treatment plant to filter arsenic, and to draw drinking water from the Bay.”

The Giant Mine is located on the shore of Great Slave Lake, the second-largest lake in the Northwest Territories. The Royal Oak Mines Ltd.-owned mine closed in 2004. The Council of Canadians NWT chapter was formed in March 2013 and has been raising concerns about the Giant Mine since its formation.

To watch an APTN News report on the meeting earlier this week, please click here.