The MiningWatch Canada small grants fund paid for sampling expenses for the Yukon Conservation Society and Carmacks community members to conduct field investigations and analyse samples at the closed Mt. Nansen mine in the Yukon. The company is now bankrupt and the federal government is responsible for the clean-up.
"We were worried about the health of the fish and wildlife in the area, so we sampled the water ourselves," said MiningWatch board member, Sarah Johnnie.
The results of the testing showed unacceptable levels of contaminants a few kilometres downstream of the mine. Cyanide levels in water were ten times higher than CCME guidelines, and arsenic levels in sediments at the same place were five times higher. Other metals such as copper, lead, aluminum, and iron were also higher than they should be.
There is on-going concern that the dam — built on permafrost — is not stable. If the dam breaks or slumps, the toxins will flow through Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation Territory into Champagne-Ashihik First Nation Territory and to the main stem of the Yukon River.
The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) has refused to comment on the situation. In late October, Johnnie and others will be coming to Ottawa to talk to them.