Containing and Caring for the Giant Mine through Environmental Assessment

Authors: Caitlynn Beckett*, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Topics: Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Environmental assessment, mine remediation, Giant Mine
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

To date, research on mine remediation in Canada has focused primarily on its scientific and economic aspects; little is known about the historical and political dimensions of remediation. In addition, environmental impact assessments often underestimate the social complexities of closure, monitoring and perpetual care. The Giant Mine Remediation Project in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories presents a novel case study of such processes. Initially, the Giant Mine remediation plan focused on containing arsenic contamination underground, which sidelined community concerns about mine legacies, perpetual care, surface remediation, and future land uses. The City of Yellowknife and the Yellowknife Dene First Nations were not satisfied with the remediation plan presented in 2007. Having few options, the City of Yellowknife then forced the government-led remediation project into an environmental assessment in 2008. This paper analyzes the process of environmental assessment (EA) that followed the communities’ rejection of the remediation plan, focusing on how the government Project Team sought to limit definitions of remediation. At the same time, community stakeholders, having no other official platform, used the EA public hearing as a mechanism to address their broader concerns about cumulative impacts, environmental injustices, colonial relations, independent oversight, and perpetual care. Somewhat surprisingly, the Giant Mine EA resulted in an environmental agreement that established independent oversight, and mandated continual community engagement, research and monitoring for the next 100 years. While little about the technical design and management of the site has changed, community stakeholders dramatically altered the process of how remediation is defined and planned for.

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