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No clean-up deposits collected from some N.W.T. mining projects

N.W.T. regulators have continued to put taxpayers at risk of paying for mining project clean-ups, as several permits were granted for exploration projects in the territory where no security deposit was required.
No clean-up deposits collected from some N.W.T. mining projects 2:41

N.W.T. regulators have continued to put taxpayers at risk of paying for mining project clean-ups, as several permits were granted for exploration projects in the territory where no security deposit was required.

Regulators and government are supposed to protect the public by ordering mining companies to deposit enough money with the government to cover the cost of cleaning up a site if it is abandoned.

Recently, Snowfield Developments abandoned its exploration site on Great Slave Lake. A security deposit was collected in that case but is not nearly enough to pay for the clean-up of the site.

"We hope that the decisions being made are adequate to cover the liability," said Zabey Nevitt, executive director of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board. 

"We rely on the inspectors to be looking at the activities that are going on to make sure the information in front of the board, when we make decisions, is adequate."

A view of fuel drums left at the Cooper Minerals exploration camp near Great Bear Lake. An inspection in September 2013 found eight full drums of gasoline, 53 full drums of diesel and 44 full drums of Jet B fuel abandoned at the site, along with camp buildings and equipment. (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada)

But when the Sahtu Land and Water Board granted Vancouver-based Cooper Minerals a land use permit in 2007 for an exploration site near Great Bear Lake, it did not require the company to make a security deposit. The permit expired in 2012 and a 2013 inspection found abandoned camp buildings, equipment and fuel, including 53 full drums of diesel fuel and 44 full drums of jet fuel.

At least two other exploration permits were granted, to Alberta Star and ATW Resources, for projects in the territory without requiring security deposits.

 The territorial government isn't eager to talk about how much of a gap there is between the money set aside for clean-up and the actual liability it's meant to cover. 

"I have submitted questions on that repeatedly and never got any real information on where we are with that," said Bob Bromley, MLA for Weledeh.

Bromley said the territorial government continues to accommodate industry.

"We recently developed a new mineral development strategy. In fact that was done by the industry itself, with the support of the minister. So, not surprisingly, that doesn't focus on the public good."

Though the strategy talks about the business benefits of mining, it makes no mention of security deposits or the need to protect taxpayers from having to pay for more mine cleanups.