Miramar hearing
Dene Nation notes history did not begin with mines

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 14/00) - They were not nearly as scientific as the other presenters, but Judith Charlo and Fred Erasmus painted the clearest picture given of the toll mining has taken on the environment in and around the city.

"Since the mine has been operating, the land has been contaminated and so have the fish," said Charlo at yesterday's public hearing for a licence renewal of the water licence for Miramar Con mine.

"If we don't pay our water bills, we don't get any water delivered," said Charlo, speaking through an interpreter. "We have to go way out into the bay to get water and fish now."

Charlo and Erasmus recalled a time when people drank the lake water and netted fish near Dettah and Ndilo.

After the mines came they were warned off it by the North's first resident doctor.

"Dr. Stanton used to tell everyone not to drink water anywhere within 20 kilometres of Yellowknife," said Erasmus, the 80-year-old father of Dene Nation Chief Bill Erasmus.

The presentations were part of an intervention filed by the Dene Nation, and came amid presentations from Environment Canada, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the territorial government.

Miramar's water licence expires May 31. The company plans to use a maximum of 2.1 million cubic metres of water from Great Slave Lake and the city of Yellowknife annually.

The environmental damage Charlo and Erasmus spoke of occurred before Miramar took over the mine, in 1993.

The Dene Nation said Miramar's assertion that "historically the site has been used for industrial uses," was wrong. Charlo said the area was prime berry-picking territory before it became a mine and people were warned to stay away because water in the area was contaminated.

"We believe there are legal principles that require the mine to work with our people," Bill Erasmus told the board. "At this point we're not threatening to go to court. We want to let you know we want to be involved."

The Dene Nation, DIAND and Environment Canada each recommended that the security deposit should reflect the cost of restoring the site once the mine closes, and that the $1 million Miramar has put up is insufficient.

"They need to meet the same requirements that BHP and Diavik have had to meet," said Bill Erasmus. Both diamond mines were required to post a deposit that reflects the true cost of restoring their sites.

Miramar estimates it will cost $7.6 million to restore the site, but wants the current deposit to stand for the renewal. DIAND has done its own estimate, and recommends the deposit be upped to $11 million.

Though in the works for years, a plan formalizing how the mine site will be reclaimed has never been completed.

"It's in the process of being finalized," said board chairman Gordon Wray.

Miramar representatives noted several times during their presentation that they have been awaiting a response to an interim plan they have proposed since December of 1998.