The federal government has agreed to set aside up to $20 million over the next decade as compensation for how the historical operation and cleanup of the arsenic trioxide-contaminated Giant Mine has affected the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.
The three agreements, called the Collaborative Process Protocol Agreement, Memorandum of Cooperation, and Community Benefits Agreement, were co-developed by the federal government and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. They aim to address the environmental, economic and social priorities stemming from the legacy impacts of mining on the traditional territory.
The Yellowknives Dene First Nation is seeking to advance a number of key socio-economic projects in the area of governance support and resources; housing; mental health and addiction treatment; education, training and skills development; and infrastructure. Funding will also go towards community-based monitoring of the site.
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“This is the start, and not the end,” Chief Sangris explained in a statement. “We will continue the work needed for an apology and compensation, and for our elders and our people to finally get back to land and water that has been healed,” he added.
Between 1948 and 2004, the Giant Mine was a major economic driver for Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories. When the mine stopped operating and Canada became the site custodian, attention focused on the environmental issues left behind. Remediation of the Giant Mine site started in July 2021. In addition to the removal of the arsenic trioxide waste, the project includes the demolition and removal of all buildings on the surface, and the remediation of surface areas, including the tailings ponds, water management and treatment options.
Lena Black, CEO of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, said that the new funding available through the agreements will “ensure more training and job opportunities for the Yellowknives Dene people, in addition to ensuring the long-term monitoring of the site, which after all will still have 237,000 tonnes of deadly arsenic frozen in it forever.”
The funding includes support for an economic division, scholarship and training, community economic development officer role, a community liaison and technical officer role, and a Healing the Land ceremony.