Giant delays
Money and work not proceeding as quickly as planned

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 24/00) - The federal government's reclamation of Giant mine is moving ahead, though not exactly at breakneck speed.

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has yet to approve a clean-up budget and work plan for the fiscal year that began April 1.

Until that happens, the only work that will be carried out is that started with the $200,000 that was spent on Giant last fiscal year.

Members of a team of DIAND employees assigned to oversee the cleanup of Royal Oak mines were reluctant to discuss what work they were hoping to do this year until the budget is approved.

"I think what we want to do is wait and see what the budget is and then go from there," Neil Thompson, a member of the Royal Oak team, said last Friday.

The Royal Oak team has been awaiting budget approval for months.

In the 1999-2000 fiscal year, $250,000 of the $450,000 the government allocated to the Giant cleanup was used to deal with more pressing environmental problems at Colomac, another mine formerly operated by Royal Oak.

DIAND is overseeing the $13-million surface cleanup of Giant and is also responsible for cleaning up an estimated 260,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide dust stored underground at the mine. Most of the work is being contracted out.

SRK, an international consulting company, has the contract for determining how to deal with the arsenic trioxide dust stored underground. SRK will report on how best to stabilize the carcinogenic substance, potential markets for it and whether or not it should be removed from the underground storage vaults.

The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board has given DIAND until October 2001 to identify a solution.

"We're looking for some kind of decision by the summer of 2001, something in that neighbourhood," said Thompson. He said SRK is still in the assessment stage and no options have been eliminated.

At a presentation last September on the Giant cleanup, DIAND officials said they hoped to identify a solution by this December.

Surface clean-up work left over from last fiscal year includes analysis of samples taken from the lake bed of Back Bay over the winter. Thompson said he did not know when the analysis will be completed.

A public collection of reports and documents concerning the cleanup DIAND said it was going to establish has yet to take shape.

"It's still being developed," said Thompson. "As a project team we're still getting ourselves together. Hopefully this summer we can piece that together."

Thompson said the team is aiming to have the public registry available online.