Det'on Cho wants to construct quarry near Vee Lake for Giant Mine cleanup

Some Yellowknifers don't think it's necessary for the company, owned by the Yellowknives Dene, to crush rock in a popular recreation area, creating a third rock quarry area in the city.

'I just can't imagine hiking up this hill ... and there's dust and noise from an open pit quarry'

The 360-degree view from Ranney Hill makes it a popular hiking spot for Yellowknifers. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

Yellowknife City Council will vote Monday on whether to start the process that could see a new rock quarry within city limits. 

Det'on Cho Construction, a subsidiary of Det'on Cho Corporation, wants to blast rock near the Vee Lake road. Their plan is to sell the fill to the Giant Mine Remediation Project, which has said it will need upwards of four million cubic metres of material to clean up the toxic mine site. 

The proposed quarry, outlined in white, lies just within city limits off the Vee Lake road. (Det'on Cho Corporation )

John Henderson, chief operating officer of Det'on Cho Corporation, says the site was chosen for its proximity to Giant Mine, as well as the quality of the rock — which is non-acidic. 

"Our owners want to be active participants in the cleanup of Giant Mine," Henderson told CBC.

Yellowknifer Ryan Silke says that's a great idea, so long as it happens away from Vee Lake and the popular Ranney Hill hiking route. 

"It's just such a unique area for Yellowknife," he said. "I just can't imagine hiking up this hill looking south toward the city and there's dust and noise from an open pit quarry happening not too far away." 

Early planning stages

The proposed quarry is still in the early planning stages. The council vote on March 9 will be on whether to approach the territorial government about acquiring the land in question — Commissioner's land — in order to lease it to Det'on Cho. 

John Henderson making a presentation to a committee at city council on Feb. 17. (City of Yellowknife)

"The discussion on whether to approve the quarry will be at a future meeting," Mayor Rebecca Alty told the CBC. She said natural resource extraction is allowed in the area under current city zoning, but only as a conditionally permitted use. 

Det'on Cho won't enter a formal permitting process until the lease is secured. Henderson said the corporation also plans to launch consultations with recreational users.

"I mean, I've used the Vee Lake road myself to haul out snowmobiles and boats," Henderson said. 

He projects the quarry would last for 10 years, providing employment and revenue to the Yellowknives Dene, who have long feared being left out of the Giant Mine cleanup.

Open letter questioning quarry

In an open letter to city council and the media, Silke questioned whether Yellowknife needs a third quarry area, referencing the quarry areas in Kam Lake and the other near the city dump. 

He also suggested Det'on Cho rethink its plan to supply the Giant Mine project, noting that the cleanup team has said some of the fill for the project will be found on-site. 

Henderson told the CBC that while it remains unknown how much fill will be found on-site versus off-, the assumption is sound, and the fill may be used by other projects. 

He also said there are few better sites, and none with better access to Giant.

"Proximity brings down the cost, to be honest," Henderson said.

The subject of rock fill was a major part of the Giant Mine Remediation Project's recent land and water permitting process. 

"This new idea of providing the mine site with quarry that has not been discussed as part of the approval process, that just seems irresponsible to me," Silke said. 

"We're surrounded by rock. Not all of it is safe to use, there's geochemical considerations, but Yellowknife has two existing quarries … and there's got to be a way to increase the footprint of those quarries."