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MLAs raise alarm after tailings spill
Poorly welded pipe ruptured at Cantung

April Hudson
Northern News Services
Thursday, September 3, 2015

A two-week delay on public notification about a spill at Cantung Mine has MLAs calling for better governmental reporting practices.

More than one cubic metres of tailings solids spilled at the mine, located in the Nahanni area, the morning of Aug. 9 after a pipeline ruptured.

The spill was reported the same day and a follow-up report was drawn up on Aug. 13 by North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd. (NATCL), which owns and operates the mine. However, the report reached the public sphere more than two weeks later on Aug. 26.

Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche said public reporting of these incidents is key and he wants the territorial government to be more proactive in its visits and inspections of older mines under the Department of Lands.

He added he would like to see more publicly reported details from the government on inspections and measures to prevent future spills.

"With these (spill) reports, we cannot see exactly what was done to date," he said. "I certainly believe (reporting) should be more transparent and made available to the public more quickly.

Perusing the report, the spill was on site and not close to a stream, but at the same time the public has to have the confidence that the spill is being addressed and reclaimed as quickly as possible."

Delays in making reports public can undermine the confidence of residents in the government's ability to manage and inspect mines, he added.

Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya said he was unhappy to find out about the spill more than two weeks after it happened, especially given CanTung Mine is on the edge of the Nahanni National Park and near the Flat River.

He also questioned the amount of information required in spill reports.

"I would like to know what goes into tungsten mining and what was in the spill," he said. "What are the damages?

NATCL reported a worker noticed solids building up on part of a tailings pipeline, consisting of sandy material and process water, the latter of which drained across a road running parallel to the line. Approximately 1.5 cubic metres of solids were removed.

After inspection, NATCL concluded the spill came from a half-inch hole created by erosion on an improperly welded joint. They concluded daily inspections are the best measure against similar spills in the future.

Deborah Flemming, environmental superintendent with NATCL, said the spill was up-slope from one of the mine's tailings ponds. She said readings from a well sampling station between that pond and the Flat River showed no groundwater contamination from the spill.

"Our crew is really committed to environmental stewardship. We work in this beautiful part of the country and we want to make sure we keep it that way," she said.

Flemming confirmed the spill was reported to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board as well as the GNWT inspector.

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