pipeline-discovery-moose-jaw

Work crews have discovered ancient aboriginal remains near Moose Jaw. (Bonnie Allen/CBC )

The discovery of ancient aboriginal remains has led to a temporary shut down in the construction of a gas pipeline near Moose Jaw.

TransGas, a SaskEnergy company, is building a new natural gas connection for the K+S potash mine in the area.

A contracted trackhoe operator who was digging a trench spotted the bones one week ago. Archaeologists have since examined the bones and determined they are human remains which predate European contact.

RCMP said analysis indicated the bones date back more than 1000 years. 

The discovery has SaskEnergy putting the work on hold while the situation is assessed.

"When we have previously found things like the buffalo ribs and teepee circles, we leave them undisturbed and we re-route our pipeline around them," SaskEnergy's Casey MacLeod said Tuesday. "It's too early to say what exactly our approach is going to be, but work will remain halted until everything is completed."

The provincial Crown corporation's aboriginal relations department has asked First Nations elders to visit the site and supervise the digging. The bones were found near a location known as the Nicole Flats, which is east of the mine site.

"We have reached out to First Nations elders in the area, as is protocol, and we're just working now to get them involved," MacLeod said.

According to officials from the contractor, the heavy equipment operator first thought he had come upon the bones of a large animal, but closer inspection led him to suspect they may be human remains.

(With files from CBC's Bonnie Allen)