.E-mail This Article

Giant still a home

Miramar-city deal allows workers to stay

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 25/01) - Despite a city takeover of the Giant Mine townsite and waterfront property adjacent to it, Miramar employees continue to live at Giant.

Last summer, when the city was negotiating a takeover of the property as part of a larger takeover of the mine by Miramar Mining Inc., residents of the townsite were issued eviction notices.

The city stated one of the conditions of its takeover of the property was that the 20 houses there be vacated.

But Miramar and the city came to an agreement -- one of five leading to the city takeover of the townsite and waterfront -- that allowed five homes to remain occupied and the boiler and pumphouse operating.

Company spokesperson Brian Labadie said six or seven Miramar employees and their families live at the townsite. One ex-employee was allowed to remain there until the ferry was back in operation.

"Our employees are there as long as we're there and as long as town lets them stay there," Labadie said.

He would not say how much longer the company plans to mine at Giant.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem said a licensing agreement the city issued to Miramar allows the company to occupy five houses until Dec. 31, 2001. The licence was part of the purchase and sale agreement detailing the terms of the city's $410,000 purchase of the property.

The licence allows Miramar to operate the boiler and pumphouse for as long as it operates the mine.

City clerk Tim Mercer said he could think of no other current licence of occupation issued by the city.

Mercer said the city's initial thinking when it entered into negotiations for the property with Miramar was that it wanted the properties vacated. At the time, Mercer said it was a condition the city was attaching to its takeover of the property. The city did not want to become landlord for the townsite.

The city backed away from the position when city lawyers suggested the licence of occupation as an alternative, Mercer said.

Soil samples from the townsite analyzed by the Royal Military College of Canada revealed arsenic levels of up to 3,300 parts per million. The Canadian guideline is 10 ppm, though it has been proven natural levels in Yellowknife are 3-150 ppm.

Certain forms of arsenic, such as the arsenic trioxide dust emitted from the gold roaster stack at Giant are highly toxic.

Labadie noted the work of the RMC and the arsenic soils remediation committee is not yet complete.

The RMC is currently determining what types of arsenic are in the soils around Yellowknife and how quickly it is absorbed by plants, animals and humans in the area. The Yellowknife soils arsenic remediation committee recently commissioned a health risk assessment focusing on exposure to arsenic in Yellowknife.

Committee spokesperson Brad Colpitts noted people have been living at the townsite for almost half a century and that the health risk assessment report, due in September, will go a long way toward identifying the risks, if there are any of living at Giant.

Labadie said, "I think when the studies come out and the recommendations are made, then we'll take whatever actions are necessary."