Pine Point Railbed Project

The Governments of Canada and of the Northwest Territories have placed signs in English, French, Chipewan, Cree and South Slavey at access points to the railbed. The signs inform users of these important steps to lower risks to their health and remind users that this is a federal contaminated site.

Public health notice

Studies have found elevated levels of metals along the former Pine Point railbed. The Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories would like to remind residents that there is a health risk associated with some activities on the former Pine Point railbed.

Cadmium and lead found in the surface soils and on vegetation along the former railbed pose a low health risk if ingested. To avoid spreading this material, we advise the public not to take quarry material from the former railbed.

To reduce risks to your health:

wear a mask when riding an ATV

do not let children play in the contaminated dirt

thoroughly wash berries, mushrooms and edible plants before eating them

Learn more about issues at the site.

From east to west, a map traces the route of the Pine Point Railbed from the former Pine Point Mine to Hay River.
Visual description of the map showing the path of the railbed at the former Pine Point Mine in the Northwest Territories:

Map showing the path of the railbed at the former Pine Point Mine in the Northwest Territories. The railbed is approximately 80 km long and runs parallel to the south shore of Great Slave Lake, its westernmost point beginning east of Hay River, and extending to the decommissioned Pine Point Mine, west of Fort Resolution.

Overview

The Pine Point railbed is approximately 80 km long and runs parallel to the south shore of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. The railbed runs from east of Hay River to the decommissioned Pine Point Mine, near Fort Resolution.

Canadian National Railway operated the railway from 1964 to 1988. During this time, it was used to transport lead and zinc concentrate from Pine Point Mine.

When the administration and governance of territorial lands and resources was devolved to the Northwest Territories in 2014, the federal government maintained responsibility for sections of the former railway because they were considered potentially contaminated sites.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is responsible for:

The Government of Canada is responsible for sections of land which were not transferred to the territory. The Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories would like to remind residents that the Pine Point railbed and surrounding area is not a quarry. Removing gravel or soil from the area to be used elsewhere is discouraged, as doing so could spread contamination into communities and the environment.

Issues at the site

Elevated levels of metal in soil: As a result of transporting lead and zinc concentrate from the Pine Point Mine, elevated levels of metals such as cadmium, lead, selenium and zinc are present in the soil along the railbed. These metals can enter the body through breathing large quantities of dust or eating plants covered in dust.

Hydrocarbon contaminated soil: Soil that has been contaminated by products such as fuel, oil, or grease. Leaks and spills can contaminate the soil if these products are not stored or handled properly.

Engagement approach

2015 In June, the Department distributed a summary of the health risks along the railbed to local Indigenous communities and other known users. Informed by the risk assessment done in 2014, the summary helped users make informed decisions about their use of the site. Community meetings begin to be held regularly in Fort Resolution, Hay River, and the Hay River Dene Reserve.
2017 In May, AMEC-Foster-Wheeler conducted a traditional knowledge and land use survey on behalf of the Department. Participants included community members and site users from Fort Resolution, Hay River, and the K'atl'odeeche First Nation. The survey will help determine if the rail bed poses risks to the environment and human health.

What work has been done?

1996 The Department deems the closure and remediation of the railbed complete, though public concern continues about potential contamination of the railbed.
2009-2010 The Department began a sampling program to determine the extent of contamination along the railbed.
2012-2013 The Department completed environmental site studies. The project team found higher than usual levels of metal concentrations in surface soils and sediments along the railbed.
2014 The Department conducted a preliminary Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment. The goal of the study was to determine potential risks at the site and guide any future assessment work.
2015 Franz Environmental Inc. and Columbia Environmental completed a gap analysis on behalf of the Department to determine what further information must be gathered in order to determine if any future action is required. This analysis recommended a Traditional Knowledge and land use survey to verify the assumptions made in the Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment.
2016-2017 The Department contracted AMEC-Foster-Wheeler to conduct a traditional knowledge and land use survey of the Pine Point railbed to support the findings of the 2014 Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment.
2018 The Government of Canada, in partnership with the Government of the Northwest Territories, installs signs along the former railbed to note health risks and provide information on how to reduce them.

What's next?

Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories continue to monitor the railbed, assessing health and environmental risks, and will share new information as it becomes available. The findings from the traditional knowledge and land use survey will inform any required remediation work in the future.

Date modified: