Green or grey? Open or closed? What Giant Mine could look like after the cleanup

The design for what Yellowknife’s contaminated Giant Mine will look like on its surface — once the site is fully cleaned up — has been narrowed down to two options: austere or people-friendly.

Federal government, groups narrow surface remediation plans to two options

In this design, most of the Giant Mine surface would be covered with green vegetation. It's the more costly option, but it's also more aesthetically pleasing and people-friendly. (courtesy INAC)

The design for what Yellowknife's contaminated Giant Mine will look like on its surface — once the site is fully cleaned up — has been narrowed down to two options: austere or people-friendly.

In the former plan, the site would be off limits, with grey rocks covering pits filled with tailings. That plan would cost between $240 million and $370 million dollars

In the latter, more costly, plan (up to $470 million), most of the site would be covered with green vegetation, with new areas for hiking and sports and the old townsite on Great Slave Lake cleaned up so people can once again live there.

Under the cheaper scenario, pits with mine tailings would be capped with grey rocks, and the site would be off limits to people. (courtesy INAC )
The Yellowknives Dene First Nation prefers an option that doesn't erase the site's loaded history.

"We want the site to be cleaned up to the best extent possible while keeping it gray and ugly," said William Lines, who works for the First Nation's lands management office.

"People drive by and they know 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide and it's not forgotten."

Decision expected by winter 

During consultations, most people agreed all soil should be remediated, that Baker Creek should stay where it is and that the mine pits be filled with tailings.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, the federal department in charge of cleaning up the site, has conducted more studies to test if the department can do as people wish.

"We need to get those results back, which are slowly coming in," said Natalie Plato, the deputy director of the Giant Mine remediation project. "That will inform our decisions going forward."

Plato says the team will have a decision this winter.

The total cost of the entire remediation project has been estimated at around $900 million.

with files from Kate Kyle