North

Yellowknife mining museum looking for $1M to complete renovation work

The museum, located at the former Giant Mine town site, is hoping to open in 3-4 years, complete with a gift shop and cafe.

Museum, located on Giant Mine site, hopes to open with gift shop, cafe in 3-4 years

Ryan Silke, vice president of Yellowknife Historical Society, says there's still 'a lot to do' to transform a former mining recreation hall into a functioning museum. (Andrew Pacey/CBC)

Yellowknife's mining museum is just $1 million away from completion, according to a feasibility study presented to the city late last month.

"There's a lot to do to get it up to code and functional," said Ryan Silke, vice president of the Yellowknife Historical Society.

The museum, to be located in the old Giant Mine recreation hall, has been a project of the Yellowknife Historical Society for two decades.

Silke estimates they've spent $800,000 since 2007 on renovating the hall.

They hope to open the museum in under five years — but the building is, currently, just a shell, and needs insulation, heating, electric work and finishings to become a fully-fledged tourist destination.

According to the feasibility study, the completed museum will "celebrate the unique community that arose when the first gold prospectors came north in the 1930s."

The former Giant Mine recreation hall, where the new Yellowknife mining museum will someday be based. The building has been under renovations for over a decade, and sits on a major remediation site. (Andrew Pacey/CBC)

It will host a restaurant, gift shop and large indoor venue that can be rented for events.

The museum itself is expected to employ "at least two people," according to the study — an executive director and a museum attendant.

A survey of 117 local residents produced for the feasibility study found all supported the idea. The study estimates more than 38,000 people would visit the museum in its first year, at an "average admission price of $3.50."

A chart in the feasibility study lists admission for adults 25 years and over at $5, with discount rates for seniors, school groups and children.

"The [museum] would be profitable very early in its operation," it concludes.

"We believe in the project," said Silke. "We think Yellowknife needs more things for tourists to do."

Lumber sits on an old billiards table once used in the Giant Mine Rec Hall. This door will become the main entrance to the museum. (Andrew Pacey/CBC)

Challenges ahead

But the road to opening is not a smooth one.

The museum sits on land owned by the territorial government, and leased to the city. The museum's sublease is for only three years, which makes it hard to secure funding agreements with partners.

That land is also part of the Giant Mine Remediation Project, which will spend the next 10 years removing poisonous arsenic from soil around the museum.

While an outdoor display of old mining equipment — "a real popular tourist attraction," according to Silke — will likely be affected, Natalie Plato, the deputy director of the Giant Mine Remediation Project, says they've found a way to work around the museum.

Natalie Plato, the deputy director of the Giant Mine Remediation Project, says remediation efforts won't limit access to the museum. (Andrew Pacey/CBC)

"We've committed to do now, is to stage it [in] remediation zones, so … they'll have access to [the museum] at all times," said Plato.

Silke hopes to open before the remediation project is complete, but he's not concerned about arsenic levels in the soil around the museum and its restaurant.

"They might do some spot removal of contaminated soils, but generally speaking our property is quite clean," he said.

Once the project is complete, Plato says, risks to visitors will be "very low to low."

But the feasibility study notes not everything is known yet about the remediation project's potential impacts.

"From temporary closures to a permanent condemning of the land, [site remediation efforts] could have a tremendous impact," reads the report.

With files from Michaela Crook

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