Plans to stabilize and clean up the shuttered Giant Mine have hit a snag as the concrete paste workers will use to reinforce the stopes needs testing to make sure it's appropriate for the job.
A team of workers were originally supposed to start reinforcing the crumbling non-arsenic stopes near the highway with a mixture of concrete and mine tailings starting at the end of August.
But Adrian Paradis, the regulatory manager in charge of the massive project, is still waiting for approval from the land and water board to test the paste to make sure it's up to the job.
The team only applied to do that fieldwork on July 26. Pending approval, they now hope work can get started by the end of September.
Paradis and others are worried about sinkholes forming along the Ingraham Highway because the fragile stopes are directly underneath it. There are also concerns about water leaking from Baker Creek into the arsenic chambers underground — something that's happened before.
"It could have pretty serious consequences," Paradis says. "We're a little delayed, but it's a doable schedule."
"It will be tight," he says.
Clean-up efforts above ground, meanwhile, are well underway.
"We're … decontaminating four buildings, the stacks, exterior flues, the bag house and the precipitator," Paradis says. "The AC Roaster building is partially decontaminated and … the fan house has been totally decontaminated … as well as deconstructed," he says.
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs is supervising the project, and the department says more than 500 cubic metre-sized bags worth of debris have been removed so far.
The delay is worrying to environmentalists like Kevin O'Reilly.
"We've had problems with Baker Creek," he said. "Two years ago it hopped over a bank where there were some old tailings and washed some of that into Back Bay," he said.
"It's an unpredictable water course."
Calls for more oversight
That's part of why O'Reilly has been calling for an independent body to review the clean-up project from start to finish.
"We've raised the issue of the need for oversight on this project right from the beginning," he says. "Lots of money being spent, delays in contracting … costs have mushroomed."
"Here we are in the middle of August, and nothing has really happened," he says. "What's going on?"
"Maybe it's time to have an independent look at what's happening at Giant Mine."