Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut November 21, 2016 - 10:00 am

Old Nunavut diamond mine to get a $10.5 million clean up

The Kitikmeot's doomed Jericho mine to undergo full remediation next summer

LISA GREGOIRE
A map of the main Jericho mine site showing Crown and Inuit owned lands as well as the open pit (turquoise, centre) where kimberlite extraction once took place. Part of the remediation plan will be to adjust the natural drainage to allow the pit to fill and become
A map of the main Jericho mine site showing Crown and Inuit owned lands as well as the open pit (turquoise, centre) where kimberlite extraction once took place. Part of the remediation plan will be to adjust the natural drainage to allow the pit to fill and become "pit lake." INAC predicts this would take about 15 years. (INAC MAP)
An aerial view of part of the Jericho mine site, located, aptly, beside Carat Lake. (INAC IMAGE)
An aerial view of part of the Jericho mine site, located, aptly, beside Carat Lake. (INAC IMAGE)
Barrels of contaminated soils still on site at Jericho, about 30 kilometres from the Lupin mine. (INAC IMAGE)
Barrels of contaminated soils still on site at Jericho, about 30 kilometres from the Lupin mine. (INAC IMAGE)

Four years after Shear Minerals Inc. walked away from Nunavut’s first and only diamond mine, leaving behind a collection of buildings, equipment and mine tailings about 260 kilometres southeast of Kugluktuk, Ottawa is finally launching a multi-million-dollar clean up plan.

A request for proposals deadline for the huge “site stabilization project” put out by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada just expired and officials are now going over submissions to see who will get the estimated $10.5 million contract.

Ottawa’s hoping it won’t cost more than that. That’s the maximum figure quoted in the proposal request and it looks like most of it will come out of taxpayers’ pockets through the 2016 Federal Infrastructure Initiative.

Craig Wells, a remediation expert with INAC, went over some of the details with Nunatsiaq News recently. He said once officials examine the proposals submitted, they’ll know whether $10.5 million is a reasonable figure.

Shear Minerals put up a $6.8 million bond to cover land and water security when they took over the Jericho property and a little more than $1 million has been spent so far on care and maintenance as well as environmental management, an INAC spokesperson told Nunatsiaq News.

A portion of the remaining $5.5 million will be spent on this remediation plan, INAC confirms, with the balance going toward follow-up monitoring once remediation is complete.

Tahera Diamond Corp. opened the mine in 2006 but after numerous setbacks, the company entered bankruptcy protection in 2008.

Shear bought the mothballed Jericho property in August 2010 but washed its hands of it in late 2012 when diamond prices slumped.

In 2014, Ottawa declared the mine “closed or abandoned,” and then in December of that year, legally took possession of the mine’s Crown assets.

The Jericho mine site straddles both Crown land (about 75 per cent) and Inuit-owned lands, the latter controlled by the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.

Wells said Ottawa is working with the KIA to coordinate remediation work on their property as well. We contacted KIA for an update from their side but Executive Director Paul Emingak has been away for several weeks and unavailable for comment.

But a September 2016 letter to INAC from the KIA’s Tannis Bolt says the KIA has no concerns with the remediation project and looks forward to working with INAC in its implementation.

According to maps submitted to the NIRB, there are large waste rock piles on Inuit land as well as an explosives storage facility. The building is likely owned by a company called Dyno-Nobel Ltd., with whom KIA is corresponding.

Since taking over “care and maintenance” of Jericho, Ottawa has made annual site inspections to ensure its safety while trying to find a buyer. With no prospects, Ottawa decided to cut its losses and go forward with demolition and remediation.

The project is deemed a “design-build” which means contractors hoping to do the job must design their own solutions to INAC’s complex needs and requirements for the site.

Those requirements include:

• construction of a 200-km winter road in early 2017 from the Ekati mine to the Jericho mine site to mobilize the necessary equipment and vehicles such as excavators, rock trucks, bulldozers, compactors, incinerators and ATVs;

• infrastructure demolition and landfill construction to bury non-hazardous waste in permafrost on site;

• “landfarming” of approximately 3,300 cubic metres of hydrocarbon contaminated soil—enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool; landfarming involves spreading out the soil and letting bacteria naturally dispose of the oil;

• removal of hazardous waste contaminated soils (nickel, zinc, chromium for eg.) and other hazardous items such as batteries, light bulbs and compressed gas cylinders; and,

• restoration of the site to an environmentally safe condition, preventing migration of contaminants to the surrounding ecosystem and stabilizing the site to prevent water accumulation.

Officials hope to build a winter road to Jericho in spring 2017, mobilize all the necessary equipment, do most of the remediation work between May and October 2017 and then get all the equipment and vehicles out on a winter road the following year, in March 2018.

Wells said the biggest challenge will be to get the winter road built and the equipment mobilized, a big operation that is subject to weather conditions.

If delays occur at that stage then that could delay next summer’s work plan and possibly push some work to summer 2018.

Indigenous Affairs held a community meeting in Kugluktuk this past August to present their plans and answer questions.

According to INAC documents, 25 people showed up and they mainly asked about what will be done with equipment and hazardous materials on site.

INAC plans to go back to Kugluktuk in early 2017 to explain what kind of work can be expected next summer and talk about potential employment, training and subcontracting opportunities for local Inuit, according to the NIRB project submission.

The site is located along the migration path of the Bathurst caribou herd, which winters near Great Slave Lake and moves to summer calving near Bathurst Inlet. Residents have, over the years, voiced concerns over protection of land, water and wildlife in the area, especially caribou.

According to a 2015 survey, the Bathurst herd population has been in free fall, plummeting to about 16,000 animals from roughly half a million 30 years ago.

To mitigate their impact on caribou, INAC says remediation activities on site will cease if more than 100 caribou are observed nearby, especially in late-April to August during calving and post-calving.

As well, INAC says that “wildlife-contaminant interactions are possible and could impact wildlife health and mortality.” For that reason, “wildlife access to contaminated areas will be restricted,” and those contaminants disposed of by end of summer 2017 if possible.

The NIRB has until Dec. 9 to complete its screening decision report on this project.

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