Imagine it’s the year 2030. When you turn up at Giant Mine, what do you want to see?
That’s the question being posed by the federal government to Yellowknife residents and groups, starting this week.
“We’re looking to get the public involved to determine what the surface will look like at Giant Mine when we get to remediation,” said Natalie Plato, deputy director of the federally operated remediation project.
The process of making the site safe has yet to begin in earnest, and will involve the freezing in place of 237,000 tons of toxic arsenic trioxide. That’s expected to take more than a decade.
But the team overseeing that clean-up is looking ahead to what happens when the site of the former gold mine does, eventually, reopen.
“It’s ultimately what people want to see the site look like when it’s done,” added Plato. “Remediation has yet to start so it’s going to be a long process and, when we get there, we want to make sure the public has had a chance to input.”
The Giant Mine team says this is not a chance to start staking your claim for an individual plot of land on which to eventually build your house.
It’s more an opportunity to suggest, in broad terms, how you’d like to see the land used.
“For example, we have Baker Creek on our site,” said Plato. “Where will that be? Does it stay where it is now or will it be rerouted?
“We have open pits on site – a perfect example is: do we fill those in, or do we leave them and let them fill naturally with water? That will have a huge impact on what Giant Mine looks like when it’s done.
“Other examples are the roads and the buildings – what stays, what goes – where the landfills will be on site, anything pertaining to the surface. For instance, the City of Yellowknife might want to use certain areas for residential development. We would like to know that, so we can try to take that into consideration in our planning.
“We might not be able to do everything that everyone wants, but at least we’ll be able to hear it all and try to incorporate it into our plans.”
The mine team already consults with a range of groups in the Northwest Territories, and each of those will have a say in how the mine’s surface is developed.
But residents who have ideas of their own can get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just don’t hold your breath for the end product.
“We’re anticipating this engagement process will take probably a year,” Plato told us.
“And we envision the final remediation of the site – by the time we get through all the steps to actually remediate the site – probably will be not till 2030. It’s very long-term.”