Another Northern Mine Closes - Taxpayers Likely Stuck with Clean-up Costs

Canadian Arctic Resources Committee

Canadian Parks And Wilderness Society logo

Canadian Parks And Wilderness Society

Northwest Territories Chapter

For Immediate Release

The CanTung mine announced closure on December 5, 2003 after creditors called in their financing, leaving an environmental mess upstream of a World Heritage Site. Robert Nault, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, signed a 5 year water licence for CanTung on November 30, 2003 that will expose Canadian taxpayers to millions of dollars of liability. The new licence was signed with only $7.9 million for clean-up despite a policy approved by the same Minister that requires full security and the October 2002 findings of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development that pointed out mismanagement of public resources by this federal agency. CARC and CPAWS are calling for the immediate clean-up of the site, not a care and maintenance regime that will drag on for years as happened with the last closure of this mine.

"We were disappointed when the Minister failed to apply his own minesite reclamation policy last year when he signed a one-year licence extension for this mine. To do it again for 5 years without adequate security, as recommended by independent consultants, is not a responsible course of action," said Kevin O'Reilly, Research Director, Canadian Arctic Resources Committee. "The legacy of northern mining is one abandoned site after another. We desperately require legally-binding mine site reclamation standards that the mining industry and government Ministers must follow to protect taxpayers and the environment. We also need an industry-funded orphan site clean-up fund to ensure a full-cost accounting approach to mining."

"For over two years, CPAWS-NWT urged the federal government and the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board to protect taxpayers from the clean-up costs at the CanTung mine site by setting a fair and adequate security deposit," stated Jennifer Morin, Conservation Coordinator, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society NWT Chapter. "This mine is just upstream of the South Nahanni River, a World Heritage site, and in an area of critical woodland caribou habitat. When can the public and the world expect it to be finally cleaned up?"

A variety of independent consultant reports from 2002 and 2003 estimated the total liability between $9.4 to $49.3 million. Even the Board commissioned an independent evaluation of reclamation costs that concluded that the clean-up will cost somewhere between $10-12 million.

For more information, contact:

Kevin O'Reilly, Research Director, CARC (867) 873-4715

Jennifer Morin, Conservation Coordinator, CPAWS-NWT (867) 873-9893

For more information on CARC, visit

For more information on CPAWS, visit