Sahtu Settlement Area


This website will change as a result of the dissolution of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, and the creation of Indigenous Services Canada and the eventual creation of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. During this transformation, you may also wish to consult the updated Indigenous and Northern Affairs home page.

The Sahtu Dene and Métis Land Claim Settlement Act   came into effect on June 23, 1994. The agreement provides the Sahtu Dene and Métis with title to 41,437 square kilometres of land in the Northwest Territories, an area slightly larger than Vancouver Island. Subsurface rights are included on 1,813 square kilometres of this land.

A number of contaminated sites have been identified for further investigation and potential remediation in the Sahtu region, and identification and assessment is ongoing. These sites are located on both Sahtu and Crown land. Many of the high priority sites are located within the Délîne district.

The majority of contaminated sites to be remediated in the Sahtu are located in the eastern part of the Great Bear Lake area. Contaminated sites in the Sahtu identified for further investigation and potential remediation are located on both Sahtu and Crown Land.

Sahtu Sites

This map is intended for general information only. It is neither a technical reference tool, nor a legal document. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada will not be held liable for any errors or inaccuracies.

No. Site Name Phase
 1  Canol Trail Assessment
 2  Silver Bear Properties Remediation
 3  Contact Lake Remediation
 4  El Bonanza/Bonanza Mines Remediation
 5  Sawmill Bay Remediation
 6  June Lake Remediation Complete / Monitoring
 7  Port Radium Mine Remediation Complete / Monitoring


Assessment Sites

Canol Trail

The Canol Trail was part of the CANOL (Canadian Oil) Project, a cooperative effort between the United States and Canada during World War II to ensure a continuous supply of oil from Norman Wells, NWT to American Forces stationed in the Pacific. Oil flowed along the route to Whitehorse starting in April 1944, but one year later, the entire project was abandoned. Although several salvage operations were conducted, remnants of the project lay strewn along the NWT portion of the trail.

Concerns along the trail include:

  • Oil or fuel contaminated soil;
  • Buildings containing asbestos materials;
  • Crude oil storage and separator tanks;
  • Surfaces painted with lead-based paint;
  • Hazardous fluids and materials; and
  • Physical hazards such as buildings and bridges in disrepair, drums, telephone wire, abandoned pipeline and rusted vehicles.

Remediating the site

Due to the complexity of the site, the assessment and remediation of the trail is a long-term initiative.

Work completed:

2007-2009 Aerial and ground review of the entire Trail. Compiled an inventory of abandoned waste materials and areas of potential concern

2009 Environmental Site Assessments performed at nine sites along the Canol Trail

2010 Environmental Site Assessments performed at 18 more sites

2012 Additional Environmental Site Assessment completed at specific locations to find the volume of oil and fuel contamination, and to collect information for the Risk Assessment

2012 Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment conducted

Future plans

Activities planned for 2013-14:

  • Finalize Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment
  • Archaeological Impact Assessment
  • Develop a Remedial/Risk Management Strategy (Remedial Action Plan)

An Assessment and Remediation Working Group has been established to facilitate communication of the project's progress and to engage with key stakeholders to ensure all interests are identified, discussed, and managed using an acceptable approach. Remedial options will be evaluated through consultation with the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), local communities and organizations and the trail's heritage value will be taken into account throughout.

The GNWT has a commitment through the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement to develop the Canol Heritage Trail as part of the proposed Doi T'oh Territorial Park. Since the majority of the Canol Trail is on Crown Land, a land transfer agreement between the Crown and the territorial government is required prior to park development.

The land transfer is currently being discussed at the Devolution negotiations between the Government of Canada and the GNWT. Negotiations may affect the project's timelines, remediation plans and future land transfer requirements. The Remediation Team meets regularly with the GNWT's Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment to work together and ensure that park development is the end goal.

Sites in Remediation

Great Bear Lake Sites

The majority of contaminated sites to be remediated in the Sahtu are located in the eastern region of the Great Bear Lake area. The Great Bear Lake project includes the Silver Bear Properties, Contact Lake, El Bonanza/ Bonanza and Sawmill Bay as described below.

Silver Bear Properties

Silver Bear Properties is a collection of former silver, copper and bismuth mines located in the Camsell River area. Terra, Northrim, Norex, Graham Vein, and Smallwood make up the Silver Bear Properties. Terra Mine is the main Silver Bear site and has a large camp and mill complex. Ore was processed and tailings were deposited into the HoHum tailings pond. There is also a group of large fuel tanks that led to significant fuel contamination in the soil.

Concerns at the site include:
  • Elevated levels of metals in surface waters in some waste rock and two tailings ponds, including HoHum Pond at Terra Mine and Hermandy Pond at Northrim
  • Hazardous waste materials including asbestos, lead paint, residual mill reagents and waste fuels
  • Hydrocarbon contaminated soils associated with past fuel handling activities
  • Old buildings, mine structures and openings on the site that pose safety hazards

Contact Lake

The Contact Lake Mine is a former silver and uranium mine located on Contact Lake. The Contact Lake Mine is much smaller than the Silver Bear Mines but still has environmental concerns.

Work completed:
2010-2011 Phase I remediation complete. Old buildings – asbestos was removed from buildings and the wooden buildings were burned. Debris was consolidated so that it can be removed during Phase II remediation.
Outstanding concerns:
  • Waste rock and processed tailings deposited downslope of the mine site, located in and around a small tailings pond
  • Elevated levels of metals in surface waters limited to the tailings pond
  • A fuel storage site associated with the mine located in the east arm of Echo Bay, approximately five kilometres away by road
  • Mine openings on site that pose safety hazards

El Bonanza/Bonanza

The El Bonanza and Bonanza sites are former silver mines located on the Dowdell Peninsula on the eastern end of Great Bear Lake.

Work completed:
2010-2011 Phase I remediation complete. Old buildings – asbestos was removed from buildings and the wooden buildings were burned. Debris was consolidated so that it can be removed during Phase II remediation.
Outstanding concerns:
  • A limited amount of soil containing hydrocarbons
  • Drums of diesel
  • Waste rock extending into Silver Lake
  • Mine openings on the site that pose safety hazards
  • Scrap metal and general debris

Sawmill Bay

The Sawmill Bay site was originally developed to support timber requirements for the Port Radium mine and is located on the northern part of the Leith Peninsula on the eastern end of Great Bear Lake. The Sawmill Bay site is a relatively small site compared to the Silver Bear Mines but has historical significance as part of the uranium ore transportation route from Port Radium.

From the mid 1940's. Sawmill Bay was used as a uranium ore transfer point. Spillages during transfer operations resulted in the contamination of a few small areas at the site. Licensable material associated with these operations was removed from the site during a 1997 clean-up led by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office (LLRWMO) of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). The remaining contaminated soil at the site is at concentrations marginally above the levels that occur naturally for uranium in soil at the site. The site continues to be the responsibility of the federal government.

AANDC and NRCan continue to work together to make sure remaining clean-up efforts at Sawmill Bay are coordinated.

Work completed:
2010-2011 Phase I remediation complete. Approximately 12,000 barrels were cleaned and crushed. Debris was consolidated so that it can be removed during Phase II remediation. Hazardous materials were consolidated and containerized.
Outstanding concerns:
  • Small amounts of hydrocarbon and asbestos residue
  • Old buildings, scrap metal and general debris
  • Approximately 1,500 m3 of uranium ore-contaminated soil

Remediating the Great Bear Lake sites

Remediation activities completed in the past three years have addressed a number of the components while the remaining components are currently scheduled for resolution in the coming years.

Work completed:

2004-2010 Phase I, II and III Environmental Site Assessment work and ongoing water monitoring at all of the sites

2007-2008 Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments completed for all sites but Sawmill Bay

2008-2009 Phased approach to addressing sites was developed during community meetings

2009-2010 Land Use Permit and Water License applications submitted to the Sahtu Land and Water Board

2010-2011 Land Use Permit and Water License issued, Phase I remediation begun, Sawmill Bay Remedial Action Plan finalized, Traditional Knowledge studies completed for Contact Lake, El Bonanza, and Sawmill Bay

2011-2012 Phase I remediation was completed. The winter road route application submitted for consideration to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board

What's next for the Great Bear Lake sites?

The funding for the remediation of the Great Bear Lake Sites is currently on hold. Discussions are on-going and updates will be provided to the community when they are available.

Remediation Completed / Monitoring

June Lake

The June Lake site is a former fuel cache on the edge of June Lake in the Mackenzie Mountains.

Concerns at the site included:

  • Physical hazards such as fuel drums and camp debris
  • Possible hydrocarbon contamination in soil

Work completed:

2012-2013 Phase II Environmental Site Assessment conducted and all drums and waste from the site were removed during the 2012-2013 field season

What's next?

The site is now cleaned up and no further work is required.

Port Radium Mine

Port Radium was a former radium, uranium, and silver mine located along the eastern shore of Great Bear Lake, 440 km north of Yellowknife and 265 km east of the Dene community of Délîne. The site was decommissioned to silver mine standards in 1982. Beginning in 2000, the site was reassessed and further studied, due to concerns raised by the community of Délîne. All studies and recommendations on how to address the site were developed jointly by Canada and Délîne. Remediation of the site was completed in 2007/08, followed by a long-term monitoring program.

Long-term monitoring is a very important commitment in the Port Radium Remediation Plan. 2012 was the fifth year of the monitoring program and scientists completed a more detailed study of the site. They looked at the health of fish in the Great Bear Lake area around Port Radium, as well as the plants and the soil. They also examined the lake bottom and the aquatic invertebrates that live in the sediments close to the site. Finally, they completed a gamma survey of the entire Port Radium site, to make sure that the radiation covers are working properly.

Future plans

Following the 2012 detailed site study, the results will be used to assess the future requirements of the second phase of long-term monitoring. AANSDC will visit Délîne in 2013 to update the community on the results of the long-term monitoring program. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will be conducting a site inspection at Port Radium in 2013 as per the requirements of the Waste Nuclear Substance Licence for the site to confirm the remediation works are working properly.