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Giant Mine remediation to be monitored by independent oversight group

A federally-funded but independent six-member oversight group will monitor the federal government's clean-up work at the contaminated Giant Mine site near Yellowknife, starting later this year.

6-member group included as part of environmental agreement

Kevin O'Reilly, Giant Mine Coordinator for Alternatives North; Chief Ernest Betsina of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation; and Yellowknife mayor Mark Heyck sign the Giant Mine environmental agreement in N'Dilo on May 22. The Government of the Northwest Territories were the final group to sign the agreement yesterday, making it official and clearing the way for an independent oversight group for the clean-up. (Submitted by Bob Wilson)

A federally-funded but independent six-member oversight group will monitor the federal government's clean-up work at the contaminated Giant Mine site near Yellowknife, starting later this year.

The group, which was called for by the project's environmental assessment, was made official Wednesday when the N.W.T. government became the last party to sign an environmental agreement for the $900-million remediation project.

The territorial government, along with five other groups — the federal government, the City of Yellowknife, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, the North Slave Metis Alliance and Alternatives North — will each appoint one member to the group.

Notably, appointments will not require the approval of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt.

Bill Enge, president of the North Slave Metis Alliance, says the group will receive regular updates from Aboriginal Affairs about the state of the clean-up at Giant Mine.

Enge says the alliance hasn't always been satisfied with the flow of information coming from the federal government.

"When information is provided, information is power. And when we're all kept in the dark, we don't have any power," said Enge.

The federal government will fund the group to the tune of approximately $900,000 a year, says Kevin O'Reilly of Alternatives North. $650,000 of that will go toward operations, while $250,000 will help fund research into how the arsenic trioxide currently stored underground at the abandoned mine might be safely (and economically) disposed of. The federal government currently plans to freeze the material underground.

O'Reilly says the group will have a board of directors and two to three staff members, who will work out of a Yellowknife office where people will be free to come in and chat about the state of the project.

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