North

Federal program to target 8 highest-risk abandoned mines in Yukon and N.W.T.

The minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations was in Yellowknife on Monday to re-announce plans for the Northern Contaminated Sites Program. Money wouldn't begin flowing until the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

Minister Carolyn Bennett announces which projects would benefit from new Northern Contaminated Sites Program

Carolyn Bennett (centre), minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, poses for a photo with N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod, left, and N'Dilo Chief Ernest Betsina. Bennett was in Yellowknife on Monday to promote the Northern Contaminated Sites Program. The program would put $2.2 billion over 15 years into the remediation of eight abandoned mines in Yukon and the N.W.T. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

The federal government has released details of its long-term plan for cleaning up abandoned mines in the North.

Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, was in Yellowknife on Monday to re-announce the government's intention to spend $2.2 billion over 15 years on remediation of the eight highest-risk abandoned mine sites in Yukon and the Northwest Territories. 

Money for the Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program was previously set out in the 2019 federal budget. However, dollars wouldn't begin flowing until the 2020-2021 fiscal year, after the federal election in October. Questions about what could happen to this funding if a new government is elected in October were not immediately answered by the department. 

In the Yukon, the program would target the Faro, United Keno Hill, Mount Nansen, Ketza River and Clinton Creek mines.

In the N.W.T., it would cover Giant, Cantung, and a group of mines on Great Bear Lake.

According to the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, contamination at these sites is the result of private-sector mining and oil and gas work, as well as government military activity, that took place when "environmental impacts were not fully understood."

The government states the Northern Contaminated Sites Program would allow for longer-term tenders for contract work at these sites, which would provide greater certainty to the affected communities.

It also states the program would "promote new economic opportunities for Indigenous people and northerners" at these remediation projects.

In a press release issued Monday, Bennett stated, "Indigenous and northern communities must be able to meaningfully participate in and benefit from the government of Canada's investment in cleaning up northern contaminated sites." 

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