Sahtu Settlement Area

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

Table displaying the Contaminated Sites in the Sahtu Settlement Area
Site Name Phase
Canol Trail Remediation
Silver Bear Properties Remediation
Contact Lake Remediation
El Bonanza/Bonanza Mines Remediation
Sawmill Bay Remediation
June Lake Remediation Complete / Monitoring
Port Radium Mine Remediation Complete / Monitoring

Sites in Remediation

Canol Trail

Visit the Canol Trail Remediation Project webpage to find out more about this remediation project.

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.

CIRNAC 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. CIRNAC 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.

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