Concerns over transparency of Giant Mine clean-up continue

A Yellowknife environmentalist is calling — once again — for more transparency around the Giant Mine clean-up.

Environmentalist says officials getting internal input from clean-up team

A Yellowknife environmentalist is calling — once again — for more transparency around the Giant Mine clean-up.

It's been almost four months since the Mackenzie Valley Review Board released its final report on the old gold mine's remediation. The board wants the federal government to go above and beyond the existing clean-up plan.

Kevin O'Reilly says he's worried government officials could be evaluating the recommendations based on cost. (CBC)

The 27 measures the report called for including asking that Baker Creek be diverted away from the site. It also wants water treated to drinking water standards and suggested health monitoring in N'DiloDettah and Yellowknife.​

But local environmentalist Kevin O'Reilly says he's worried government officials who have the final say on the project could be evaluating the review board's recommendations based on cost.

O'Reilly has been calling for independent oversight of the Giant Mine clean-up for years. As it stands, the same department that gets the final say on how to clean up the the mine also has to do, and pay for the work.

"Too many roles, too much potential for conflict in there," he says.

Now he's concerned because Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada is getting internal input from the clean-up team on the report.

Crews began removing asbestos and arsenic trioxide found in the roaster complex at Yellowknife's Giant Mine this summer. (CBC)

"Those folks, they've already had a kick at this project," he says. "If they're providing new information to whoever is going to be putting together the response for the minister, why can't anyone else see that?"

Project proponent and decision-making roles kept separate: AANDC

An email response from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada says the clean-up team has a responsibility, like any other project proponent, to answer questions and explain how the review board's report would affect its proposal to clean up the mine. That may include doing cost estimates. 

Aboriginal Affairs also says the proponent and environmental assessment decision-making roles for the review have been separated up to the highest levels.

No one from the department would agree to do an interview.

O'Reilly says it's an unusual case because typically a company proposing to clean-up a mine site would be separate from government. He says it is unclear how the two sections of Aboriginal Affairs are kept apart. Because of this, he says the clean-up team's assessment of the report should be public.

"Why hide it? Why not make it available. Everybody can look at it, put in their comments — views about it whether something is too expensive, costed too high or isn't feasible," he says. 

"I think it would help build public confidence that the best responses possible are coming out and people from the community have had further input into this, rather than just the project team itself." 

The clean-up is already expected to cost a billion dollars.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.