In pictures: Giant Mine’s iconic headframe comes down

Giant Mine's C-shaft headframe
The C-shaft headframe had been a feature of the Yellowknife skyline since 1947.
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An icon of Yellowknife’s mining heritage has taken its final bow and disappeared from the skyline.

The C-shaft headframe, a feature on the horizon since 1947, has been dismantled by workers cleaning up the contaminated site of Giant Mine, a former gold mine just outside the city.

The federal government, which assumed control of the site after Giant Mine ceased operations more than a decade ago, deemed the headframe’s demise necessary for the safety of workers and the public.

“We had noticed that the headframe was starting to deteriorate and pieces had the potential to fall off,” said Natalie Plato, deputy director of the project to remediate the mine site.

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“We had to bring it down so it did not hurt a worker on-site.”

Giant Mine's C-shaft headframe
Work to deconstruct the C-shaft headframe and surrounding buildings began in September. This shows, from left, the headframe, crusher house, conveyors and screen house.
Giant Mine's C-shaft headframe
To suppress dust, structures were sprayed with water before work began.
Giant Mine's C-shaft headframe
The wood portion of the headframe was the first to be dismantled, in early October.

The remediation of Giant Mine will take decades at the very least. The current plan – designed to last for at least 100 years – involves using coolant devices, known as thermosyphons, to keep 237,000 tons of toxic arsenic trioxide frozen in place underground. In total, the work is projected to cost around $1 billion.

Read: Giant Mine project to be given independent oversight

In the shorter term, the process of taking down the headframe and associated complex began in September and had been all but completed by Wednesday, when the federal government released new photos.

Asbestos removed from the headframe structure has been shipped to a southern disposal facility.

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“The remaining wood that has been tested and is not hazardous – it doesn’t contain arsenic – will be stored on-site until we get to full remediation of the site,” Plato told Moose FM.

“We have worked with the Mining Heritage Society and the GNWT to see if they wanted to salvage any items, and I don’t believe that any were identified.”

Giant Mine's C-shaft headframe
The headframe was approximately 40m in height.
Giant Mine's C-shaft headframe
A sheave wheel is lifted from the top portion of the headframe on October 23.
Giant Mine's C-shaft headframe
The steel support structure was dismantled from the top down.

Last week, Mining Heritage Society president Walt Humphries told us: “We knew it was coming. It’s one of the last headframes in town, so it’s sad in that respect.

“But the C-shaft is in a unique position because it’s right where they’re doing the clean-up. It would have been very, very expensive to save it.”

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Read: How do you want Giant Mine to look when the clean-up ends?

Plato says the mine’s A-shaft headframe and old curling rink are also “in very poor condition” and next on the list to come down, in the coming year.

Giant Mine's C-shaft headframe
The federal government is in the process of working out how the remediated mine site will eventually look.

By next summer, the remediation team will finish a consultation process designed to figure out how the mine should eventually look once the clean-up is largely complete.

“After that, we’ll have to take some decisions on what the final plan will look like,” said Plato.

“It may not reflect what everybody wants, but we’ll try to incorporate as many desires as we can.”

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