The Yellowknives Dene First Nation wants Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) to replace the contractor cleaning up a group of abandoned mine sites east of Yellowknife. Inspectors discovered a slew of non-compliance issues in May.

INAC's Contaminants and Remediation Division is leading the cleanup. The contract was awarded to Rowe's-Outcome Joint Venture in August 2016.

The following May, inspectors found the cleanup team had failed to comply with 18 conditions under its land use permit and associated management plan.

Problems included failure to report a hydrocarbon spill, failure to stop petroleum products from spreading to surrounding lands, failure to use drip trays under leaking equipment, failure to clean up all leaks and contaminated material, failure to report a truck fire, and — among more things — operating a quarry too close to a body of water.

"To let the remediation be in such a state of disarray is mind-boggling," said Eddie Sangris, chief of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.

Eddie Sangris

'To let the remediation be in such a state of disarray is mind-boggling,' says Eddie Sangris, chief of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. (CBC)

"We told them this sort of thing should never have happened."

Yellowknives Dene leadership met with INAC on Wednesday to discuss the failures.

Sangris wants INAC to reissue the contract.

"They are obviously not doing an adequate job. We would like to see it done properly," Sangris said.

"We told them the best people to do the remediation is the people who depend on the land … other groups just get the job done, get their money and get out."

Sangris is also asking for the Yellowkinves Dene to be brought in as inspectors. INAC is currently policing itself.

"There is nobody watching them. There is no oversight group," Sangris said.

"I would like to see the involvement of the Yellowknives Dene to make sure the job is done right, to everyone's satisfaction."

Oil drums

Old drums leaking near the shoreline of Spectrum Lake. (Inspection report, INAC)

More inspections coming

INAC did not agree to an interview with CBC News, but Andrew Norman, an INAC communications manager, did respond to questions by email.

"Remediation projects are complex and new environmental issues can arise during seasonal changes," wrote Norman, in response to the broken conditions and flooding at Beaulieu Mine camp.

Norman said the 16 inspection orders have been addressed.

"The immediate action items identified in the inspection report were all completed on May 27 and 28," he said.

"Improvements have been made to overall project controls including increased site visits by INAC's Contaminants and Remediation Division."

Norman said on June 7, officials from INAC and Public Services and Procurement Canada visited the project sites to assess progress in resolving the issues identified in the inspection report.

He said additional site visits will continue over the summer.

Rowe's-Outcome Joint Venture did not provide a comment for this story.