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New program to clean up largest abandoned mines in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories

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New program to clean up largest abandoned mines in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories

 

 

 

 

 

Canada is moving forward with a long-term plan to clean up contaminated sites in the North.

 

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, announced that the Government’s new Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program will invest $2.2 billion over 15 years to address remediation of the eight largest abandoned mine projects in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

 

These projects are the Faro, United Keno Hill, Mount Nansen, Ketza River, and Clinton Creek mines in the Yukon; and the Giant, Cantung, and Great Bear Lake mines in the Northwest Territories. The Great Bear Lake project consists of multiple smaller sites in close proximity to each other.

 

The new program will leverage expertise gained over 15 years of managing human and environmental health and safety risks at contaminated sites in the North and allow for longer-term tenders for work at the sites, providing greater certainty for impacted communities and economic opportunity for Indigenous people and Northerners.

 

The Government of Canada prioritizes engagement with the Indigenous and Northern communities impacted by each site and supports their access to the employment and business opportunities associated with its clean up. The new Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program will continue to promote new economic opportunities for Indigenous people and Northerners in large remediation projects.

 

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“Indigenous and Northern communities must be able to meaningfully participate in and benefit from the Government of Canada’s investment in cleaning up northern contaminated sites. The new Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program demonstrates the Government of Canada’s commitment to engage with Indigenous and Northern communities and find approaches that benefit both the environment and the economy.”

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P.
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

 

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The Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program

 

Budget 2019 invested $49.9 million over 15 years ($2.2 billion on a cash basis), starting in 2020–21 to create the Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program. The program will exclusively address the largest and highest-risk abandoned mines in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

 

At the end of the 15-year program, active remediation is expected to be complete at seven of the eight mine sites. However, all sites will likely require ongoing care and monitoring to ensure the remediation measures continue working as planned.

 

The remediation of the other smaller mines or contaminated sites in the North under the responsibility of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada will continue to be funded through Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan.

 

Further information about the eight mine sites can be found below:

 

Cantung Mine

 

The Cantung tungsten mine is located in the south-west corner of the Northwest Territories, approximately 720 km west of Yellowknife. The mine is located 390 km from Whitehorse, with year-round access via Watson Lake. North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd (NATC) is the owner of Cantung mine and is responsible for the site under the water licence issued by the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.

 

The company, while legally responsible for the site, has been under creditor protection since June 2015. A Court-appointed Monitor, Alvarez & Marsal, oversees site operations, which are funded by the Government of Canada through the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act court process. Under direction from the Court-appointed Monitor, NATC continues to undertake care and maintenance activities at the Cantung mine in order to meet its regulatory requirements. It is also advancing environmental site investigations to assess and determine potential closure options for existing environmental liabilities at the mine site. This work is being carried out in conjunction with federal officials and in consultation with Indigenous groups with asserted rights in the area.

 

In 2019, a Memorandum of Agreement for the joint sale and marketing process of the Cantung mine and Mactung deposit was signed by the Government of Canada and the

 

Government of the Northwest Territories. There are viable tungsten and copper reserves remaining at the Cantung mine, and as such it is possible that the Government of Canada could find a new operator to resume mining activities before the site is remediated and eventually closed.

 

Clinton Creek Mine

 

The Clinton Creek Mine is an abandoned asbestos mine located approximately 100 km northwest of Dawson City, Yukon, in the traditional territory of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in.

Environmental care and maintenance activities are being conducted by the Yukon Government with funding from the Government of Canada while remediation planning is underway. The completed conceptual Remediation Plan is anticipated for spring 2020, and all regulatory authorizations including the environmental assessment, water license, and land use permit will be in place by 2025. Remediation at the site is anticipated to start in 2026, and is planned to continue for four years. Once remediation is complete, the project will move into adaptive management in order to monitor the performance of the remediation work, before proceeding to long-term monitoring.

 

Faro Mine

 

Faro Mine was once the largest open pit lead-zinc mine in the world. Today, it is the site of one of the most complex abandoned mine remediation projects in Canada. It is located in south-central Yukon, near the town of Faro, on the traditional territory of the Kaska Nation, and upstream from Selkirk First Nation. The Yukon Northern Affairs Program Devolution Transfer Agreement identifies the Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation, Kaska Dena Council, and Selkirk First Nation as affected First Nations for the Faro Mine. The Faro Mine site is located across 25 sq. km – an area roughly the size of Victoria, British Columbia.

 

The project proposal, including the remediation plan, has now been submitted to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board for assessment and regulatory review. This important milestone was based on meaningful input from First Nations and other key stakeholders.

 

The major remediation phase will begin once the regulatory, environmental and socio-economic assessments are approved. This remediation work is expected to take about 15 years to complete, followed by ongoing care and maintenance, water treatment and long-term monitoring. Remediation of the Faro Mine is not expected to be fully completed before the end of the Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.

 

Until full remediation begins, specific risks at the Faro Mine site will continue to be addressed through pre-remediation works and a care and maintenance program that protects the environment and minimizes risks to human health and safety.

 

Giant Mine

 

The Giant Mine was one of the longest-operating gold mines in Canada. The Government of Canada assumed responsibility for the site when the owners went bankrupt. When the mine stopped operating and Canada became the site custodian, attention focused on the environmental issues left behind, most notably the 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide stored in mined-out voids. The site requires ongoing management to protect the environment and human health and safety.  Located only five kilometers from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories’ capital, the Giant Mine site is over 900 hectares in size.

 

In 2007, the Giant Mine Remediation Project’s application for a water licence to remediate the site was referred to Environmental Assessment. Since the Environmental Assessment was completed in 2014, the project team has been working toward resubmitting its application to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.  The input from the project’s numerous engagement activities and stakeholder feedback was carefully considered by the team and is reflected in the final Closure and Reclamation Plan and supporting documents, which were provided to the Board when the project formally resubmitted its application for a water licence on April 1, 2019.

 

Pending regulatory approvals and receipt of the water licence, which is anticipated in  2020, full site remediation would begin in 2021. Active remediation is expected to take approximately 10 years, after which the site will move into long-term monitoring and ongoing care and maintenance.

 

The Giant Mine Remediation Project has developed and is implementing a socio-economic strategy to ensure Northerners and Indigenous persons are positioned to benefit from employment opportunities that result from the remediation, including by working with other organizations to support and build capacity in the North, such as access to relevant training to support work required at the site.

 

Great Bear Lake Remediation Project

 

The Great Bear Lake Remediation Project consists of multiple smaller-scale mining and exploration properties, which are now abandoned and the responsibility of the Government of Canada. The sites include the Silver Bear Mines (including the Terra, Northrim, Norex and Graham Vein, and Smallwood sites), Contact Lake Mine, El Bonanza/Bonanza Mine, and Sawmill Bay. The sites are located on the east side of Great Bear Lake. These properties are approximately 250 km east of Délı̨nę and within the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim. A portion of the geographic area of the Silver Bear Mines also overlaps with the Tłı̨chǫ Mǫwhì Gogha Dè Nįįłèè Boundary.

 

Due to their proximity to one another, the clean-up of these sites will be bundled under one project, reducing the impact to the environment and overall costs. The remediation components for the project will include the capping of tailings at multiple sites, treatment of contaminated soils, proper disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste, and removal of physical hazards from the site.

 

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada has involved the community of Délı̨nę throughout this project by carrying out leadership and public meetings during the planning stages of the project, staffing a community liaison position, hiring individuals during field work and remediation activities for the project, and carrying out training activities for Délı̨nę residents. The Government of Canada is committed to ongoing engagement with the Délı̨nę Got’ine Government, community members and leadership throughout the life of this project. The community liaison position and training and capacity building work will continue to take place in partnership with the Lands Division of the Délı̨nę Got’ine Government.

 

The remediation contract is anticipated for tender in the summer of 2021, and the five year remediation period is anticipated to start the summer of 2022.

 

Ketza River Mine

 

The Ketza River Mine is an abandoned gold and silver mine. It is located in south-central Yukon, 50 km southeast of the community of Ross River, in the traditional territory of the Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation, and Teslin Tlingit Council. The Devolution Transfer Agreement identifies the Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation, Kaska Dena Council, and Teslin Tlingit Council as the affected First Nation for the Ketza River Mine.

 

Environmental care and maintenance activities are being conducted by the Yukon Government with funding from the Government of Canada while remediation planning is underway.

 

The project remediation plan is expected to be completed in 2022, with the schedule of payments with Yukon Government to be negotiated by 2023. This will define the schedule for remediation, and will allow them to move forward with obtaining the required regulatory authorizations for the project and completing the remediation activities. Once remediation is complete, the project will move into adaptive management, in order to monitor the performance of the remediation work, before proceeding to long-term monitoring.

 

Mount Nansen Mine

 

The Mount Nansen Mine is an abandoned gold and silver mine. It is located in south-central Yukon, 60 km west of the community of Carmacks, within the traditional territory of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation. The Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation is listed in the Devolution Transfer Agreement as the affected First Nation for the mine.

 

Environmental care and maintenance activities are being conducted by the Yukon Government with funding from the Government of Canada while remediation planning is underway.

 

Through a commercial sales process, the Mount Nansen Mine is being sold to the Mount Nansen Remediation Limited Partnership in 2019. It is expected that the company will obtain a Water Use License in 2022, and following that they will be responsible for environmental care and maintenance, and developing the remediation plan. The remediation activities are expected to begin in 2023 and continue until 2025. Following that, the project will move into adaptive management in order to monitor the performance of the remediation work before proceeding to long-term monitoring.

 

United Keno Hill Mines

 

The United Keno Hill Mines is a collection of over 50 individual silver producing mines. It is located in central Yukon, approximately 55 km northeast of the community of Mayo and within the community of Keno City, in the traditional territory of the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun. The Devolution Transfer Agreement identifies the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun as the affected First Nation for the mine site.

 

Through a commercial sales process, the United Keno Hill Mines was sold to Alexco Resource Corporation and its subsidiary company, Elsa Reclamation Development Corporation, in 2006. The company performs ongoing environmental care and maintenance with funding from the Government of Canada, and has submitted the reclamation plan to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board. The project is expected to have all regulatory authorizations, including environmental assessment, water license, and land use permit in place in 2020. The remediation activities are expected to begin in 2021 and continue until 2025. Following that the project will move into adaptive management in order to monitor the performance of the remediation work before proceeding to long-term monitoring.

 

Posted August 19, 2019

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