An old N.W.T. gold mine that was recently cleaned up by the federal government is set to become a mine once again.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) took control of the heavily contaminated Colomac Mine site in 1999 after its owner, Royal Oak Mines, went bankrupt. Cleanup work was completed this year.

Now, mineral company Merc International Minerals Inc. announced it is acquiring the mineral rights to the property.

Merc Interational’s Indin Lake gold project already owns almost 101,000 hectares surrounding the former mine. In exchange for the Colomac mineral rights, Merc will commit to cleaning up three historic exploration sites near the  mine on behalf  of AANDC, to a maximum of $5 million.

The mine is located 222 km north of Yellowknife, near Wekweeti, and was in operation from 1989 to 1997.

Remediation work included capping tailings ponds contaminated with cyanide and removing oil, fuel, old batteries and other hazardous substances from the site.

AANDC’s remediation plan for Colomac was developed with Tlicho elders who provided traditional knowledge and advice about caribou migration around the site and traditional land use in the Indin Lake area. Elders visited the site in spring and fall each year to monitor the cleanup.

Tlicho elder Joseph Judas said he doesn't understand why the federal government would let another company mine at Colomac after it took them nearly 10 years and millions of dollars to clean it up.

"If kids run back and forth inside [the house], you sweep, which is what we did," said Judas. "Now we’ve got to re-sweep the floor again."

The government says it discussed the land trade with the Tlicho leadership but the elders say they knew nothing about it.

Malcolm Robb, manager of mineral development for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, said the government was waiting for the company to issue its press release.

"You have to be careful of how many people are in the discussion before it becomes public," he said.

The agreement is expected to be finalized in January.