Giant Mine townsite demolition begins this month
Work to demolish Yellowknife’s former Giant Mine townsite will begin next week and run throughout the summer and fall, a regulatory document suggests.
Now a ghost town, the townsite once housed workers at the former gold mine, which closed in 2004 – leaving behind 237,000 tonnes of toxic arsenic trioxide stored underground.
Work to remediate Giant Mine is ramping up but the townsite, despite being earmarked for demolition in both 2021 and 2022, has survived until now through a combination of delays, challenges and priorities elsewhere at the site.
Long boarded up, the deserted houses form a reminder that what is now a toxic burden was for decades both a place of work and a home to many Yellowknifers.
In a regulatory document filed last week, Parsons – the company running day-to-day remediation at Giant Mine on behalf of a federally led project team – said 2023 will mark the end of the line for the townsite.
Vegetation has been cleared from the site, the document states. In the months ahead, many of the buildings will be systematically deconstructed while removing hazardous materials like asbestos and lead.
Thirty-six structures are involved, Parsons senior environmental regulatory manager Caroline Serhal wrote.
One building, a former pumphouse, is close enough to Yellowknife Bay that it will be dismantled this month, while the weather remains cold and the bay frozen, to minimize the risk of dust or sediment getting into the water.
More: Cleaning up Giant Mine will take much longer and cost much more than planned
Various other measures, including testing of the air, are in place to monitor environmental protection and worker safety as buildings are gradually taken down.
Most of the demolition work is scheduled to take place from May onward.
“The townsite demolition is expected to start on or around March 20, 2023 and be complete by end of October/November 2023,” the document concludes.
The cost of remediating Giant Mine has ballooned from initial projections of around $1 billion to a fresh figure of $4.38 billion issued in the fall.
Aside from demolishing the townsite, the plan involves filling pits, removing contaminated soil, building a new water treatment plant and freezing the arsenic trioxide dust beneath the surface.
Full remediation of the site began in 2021 and is scheduled to continue until 2038.