The Board of Directors of MiningWatch Canada met in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, on October 1 to 3, 2004. The meeting included a tour of the closed Giant Mine and presentations from the Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency, CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, NWT Chapter), and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). Bringing our Board members from around the country to the NWT was a fine experience for the Board and our hosts.
The meeting was organised by Board Chair Kevin O'Reilly, who is also a researcher with the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee and a member of the Yellowknife City Council.
After 50 years of mining gold, the Giant mine has left a legacy of 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide stored underground and a huge surface area of tailings, waste rock and infrastructure, contaminated not only with arsenic and heavy metals but with asbestos insulation and cladding. Since Royal Oak abandoned it, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is responsible for cleaning up and controlling the hazards at the site. They have determined that the best solution is to freeze forever the arsenic trioxide and surrounding rock in the underground chambers where it is stored. The cleanup of the surface is a whole other problem. See http://nwt.inac.gc.ca/giant for information about the plan.
The Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency was established in an Environmental Agreement with First Nations in 1996 when the Ekati mine was approved. Carole Mills of the Agency presented their work monitoring the growing footprint of the mine and reporting their findings to the public. As the Ekati diamond mine has expanded to eight separate pits, the waste rock and processed kimberlite piles have expanded enormously, and there have been unexpected environmental effects. The Bathurst caribou herd has shrunk by 50% - although there is no way to link this with the mine itself, and it is probably related to cumulative assaults on the environment in the North, including climate change, toxics drifts from the South, and mining and oil and gas exploration.
The threat to Nahanni National Park Reserve from the Prairie Creek and Cantung mines was presented by Greg Yeoman and Jennifer Morin of CPAWS-NT. Information about these two mines can be found in the publications section of our web site.
A union has been formed at the Ekati Mine. PSAC Diamond Workers Local 3050 has been certified after a long organizing drive, and is now negotiating its first contract. This is the first union at a diamond mine in Canada.