Giant Mine Surface Design Engagement Process

Giant Mine operated for over 50 years and had significant effects on local people, air, land and water. Since 1999, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and the Government of Northwest Territories have been responsible for the site, and together formed the Giant Mine Remediation Project Team to lead the remediation. Early in 2015, the Project Team initiated an engagement process related to plans for the surface of Giant Mine. More than 100 people from Yellowknife, Dettah, and Ndilo participated in the surface design engagement (SDE).

This process allowed local people to have input to the remediation plan and ensured that the Project Team understands the perspectives and preferences of everyone. The SDE process focused on the major problem areas on the Giant Mine surface: Baker Creek, the tailings ponds, open pits, and contaminated soils. The Project Team wanted to maximize participation in the surface remediation engagement process at Giant Mine by involving the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, North Slave Métis Alliance, Detón Cho, Alternatives North, City of Yellowknife, Fly Kid Foundation, Mining Heritage Society, Health Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. A timeline of the SDE process follows.

Information Sharing

April to May 2015 – The Project Team provided information sessions for any group that needed to get more background about the SDE process or about current conditions at Giant Mine.

Identifying Objectives

May 2015 – Individual groups met within their own organizations to define their objectives and how they saw the site being used at the end of remediation, asking questions such as "What do we want/don’t want for the future of Giant Mine?" and "How will our children use the site?"

Options Definition Workshop

June 2015 (two days) – People from all groups met together to generate ideas and identify a range of options for Baker Creek, tailings, pits, and soils.

Developing Options

July to November 2015 – Engineers and scientists turned these ideas into complete remediation plans.

Risk Review Meeting

December 2015 (three days) – Representatives of each group met to identify risks, concerns, and possible improvements for each plan. They used a risk assessment method that told engineers how to improve the options before moving to the next step.

Options Evaluation Workshop

February 2016 (four days) – Groups met together again, but this time at separate tables, so each group could do its own assessment of each option. Each group asked and sought to answer the question, "What options do we like best and why do we like them?"

Further Steps

Post Evaluation Workshop – A draft report on the workshop was prepared. Each group reviewed it and gave feedback. The Project Team used the final report to decide which options best met everyone’s objectives. The selected option will be brought into the water licencing process, where there will be another chance to review the plan.

Baker Creek

All groups agreed that Baker Creek should be put into a wider channel that can handle floods safely, and that contaminated sediments in the creek bottom should be removed. But people disagreed about whether fish should be allowed to live in the creek after it was remediated. Some people thought there would be a risk for people who might eat the fish, while others thought Baker Creek was good fish habitat and the risk to human health would be very low.

Pits

All groups agreed that the pits should be filled in to make the area safer for people and animals. There were different opinions on what materials should be used. Some groups wanted the pits to be filled with tailings, and others thought that clean rock should be blasted from cliffs above the pits and used as fill.

Tailings

Most groups agreed that tailings should be placed in the underground mine as much as possible, and that some of the tailings should be moved into the pits or combined into a smaller tailings area. Everyone agreed that any tailings remaining on surface need to be covered. Some groups wanted soil covers with vegetation. Other groups wanted rock covers to prevent vegetation so that animals would not use the area, and so that future generations would always know there were contaminated tailings materials below the surface.

Contaminated Soils

All groups agreed that contaminated soils should be cleaned up from areas of the site that had already been disturbed by mining activities, and most groups wanted to clean up soils across the southern part of the site and along the shoreline. For parts of the site where the soil is contaminated but not disturbed, people were reluctant to destroy the healthy vegetation just to get at the soil. Instead, they recommended sampling and testing with signs or fencing, where there might be a risk to people.

Land Use

All of the remediation plans included a fenced area in the central part of the site, where the water treatment plant and freeze pipes would be located. All plans also included a memorial or museum to make future generations aware of the history of the mine and its impact on the local people. There were different perspectives on how the rest of the site should be used after it is remediated. Some groups thought parts of the site should be accessible for other uses. Other groups wanted the remediated site to remain off limits, so future generations would be aware of its long-term management needs.

Going Forward

The Giant Mine Remediation Project Team is using the SDE results as input to decisions about the final remediation plan. They are continuing to meet with the people who were involved in the SDE process to communicate what decisions have been made and for further input and considerations.

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