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