Yellowknife’s Giant Mine: A Remediation Behemoth

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On our last day of our study tour in the Northwest Territories, we visited Ms. Natalie Plato, the Deputy Director of the Giant Mine Remediation Project.
Ms. Plato, an engineer by profession, gave us an overview of the history of the mine and its relationship with the people of Yellowknife, particularly the Yellowknives Dene First nation whose lands border the mine. In its glory days, between 1948 and 2004, the Giant Mine was a powerful economic driver in the Northwest Territories and more particularly, in Yellowknife, where it is located. However, when the mine closed, the hazardous environmental issues caused by the operation came to light. Since the company had gone bankrupt, the onus fell on the governments and people of Yellowknife to clean up after them.
A horrifying 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide — one teaspoon of which can be lethal — was found in the mine‘s underground chambers. We learned that the primary job of the remediation team was to contain the arsenic and make sure it doesn’t flood into the nearby lake, one of the most essential bodies of water for the Dene First Nation. She gave us a fascinating walkthrough of her team’s work at the site. The project also invests in scientific research to find alternative and innovative ways to manage the dangerous chemical.
However, the work of the Giant Mine Remediation team extends beyond engineering and scientific research. The project team is also responsible for public consultations with Yellowknife’s residents, particularly the Dene community. The community’s input has shaped the way the team is working to rebuild the site and manage its dangers, as well as the access that the community has to the land around the mine.
Thank you to Natalie Plato for facilitating an incredible fascinating meeting about a very unique remediation — one of only three in all of Canada.