Giant Mine headframe set for demolition this summer

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada says part or all of the C-Shaft headframe at Giant Mine will be taken down this summer, while the City of Yellowknife has abandoned plans to take over ownership of the Robertson headframe at Con Mine.

Yellowknife city council abandons plans to take over Con Mine Robertson headframe

The C-Shaft headframe at Giant Mine is scheduled for takedown this summer due to concerns about safety of the crew cleaning up the mine site. (CBC)

One landmark from Yellowknife's gold mining past is close to disappearing for good, while the future of another is in limbo.

Plans are underway to begin dismantling the iconic C-Shaft headframe at Giant Mine this summer, representatives from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada said at a public meeting Thursday night.

It's part of an early "site stabilization" phase of the remediation project triggered in 2013 by concerns about site safety.

It's sad. But things do change.- Jay Butler

"People will definitely notice a difference," said Jane Amphlett, an engineering manager with the project. 

"We haven't finalized the plan, but it's likely that significant parts of the shaft will come down in the next year, and likely perhaps all of it will come down once [our engineers] finalize the actual plan for it."

Amphlett said the timber and steel tower, which is at the centre of the clean-up site, poses a potential safety risk to remediation workers. 

The smaller A-Shaft headframe, near the Yellowknife boat launch area and close to the intended site of a proposed N.W.T. Mining Museum, will also be taken down, though when has not be determined yet, Amphlett added.

Earlier this week, city councillors voted to end discussions about taking over ownership of Con Mine's hard-to-miss Robertson headframe from Newmont Mining Corporation
Yellowknife's iconic Robertson headframe was scheduled to be be demolished in April of 2016, but the territorial government latest effort pushed off those plans. (CBC)

The decision comes after city administration said it's simply not possible for the city to absolve Newmont of any potential liability for the red-topped headframe.

"It's really a case of not being able to do what the majority of council wanted to do. It's not a case of us not being in support of [preserving the headframe]," says Councillor Cory Vanthuyne.

Though Newmont remains the owner of the headframe, Vanthuyne and fellow councillors Linda Bussey and Niels Konge said the option of lobbying the territorial government to save the headframe remains.

Resignation and regret 

News of the impending removal of the C-shaft headframe, and the unfortunately-timed news about the Robertson headframe, has been met with a mixture of resignation and regret.

"It's sad. My grandfather worked at Giant for a bunch of years in the 1950s," said Jay Butler. "But things do change. 

"The amount of money that would have to go to preserving these artifacts, I think, would be better used to make the area usable by the public. So if there's a trade-off, I would rather look to the future than the past."
Giant Mine's C Shaft headframe is one of Sarah Erasmus' most popular designs. (CBC)

Dave Ritchie, a retired former Giant Mine draftsman, recently returned home from a six-month vacation that took him to Paris.

"I was able to go up the Eiffel Tower," said the cane-wielding Ritchie. "And even though that is more 100 years old, it's in good shape and it's a landmark for the town. I'm sure the Robertson headframe could be like a landmark for this town. Everybody that comes to town would want to see it, I'm sure."

The C-Shaft headframe at Giant Mine was one of the first T-shirt and hoodie designs Erasmus Apparel co-owner Sarah Erasmus sketched before opening her store in 2012. It's since become one of her hottest sellers. 

"We didn't think it would be as popular as it was but everyone loved it so we kept printing it," said Erasmus.

Her own feelings about the Giant Mine site are more ambiguous.

"The things it's done to the Earth and how big of a problem it is, with the arsenic, it's devastating. But at the same time, you can't deny that it's part of Yellowknife."


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