The acquisition of land at the Con Mine waterfront, with a view to the City of Yellowknife creating a new public boat launch, has been approved by city councillors.

This week, councillors voted unanimously to acquire several parcels of land between the former gold mine and Yellowknife Bay.

The impetus for the move is the ramping-up of remediation work at the other major mine site on Yellowknife’s doorstep – Giant Mine – which will see the public lose access to a popular boat launch in the area.

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The Giant Mine boat launch is expected by federal remediation teams to be inaccessible for several years, as crews work to make safe 237,000 tonnes of toxic arsenic trioxide beneath the ground.

While another boat launch exists in Old Town, it does not accommodate all types of boat, is smaller than the Giant Mine launch, and parking can be difficult to find.

City of Yellowknife staff subsequently identified Con Mine’s old dock as a potential solution, and councillors had indicated their support for the plan earlier in the month.

On Monday, that was formalized in two votes authorizing the City to proceed with acquisition of the land – ideally by buying it outright or, if need be, by leasing it. The land in question is owned by the territorial government, with which the City will now initiate talks.

“At this time, the City is only initiating the process to acquire the land for public use,” read documents prepared for councillors earlier in March.

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“Once the City receives notification of the opportunity to acquire the lands, the next steps will be undertaken: planning, phasing, area development plan, and future financial considerations.”

Money to construct a public boat launch will be sought from the federal and territorial governments. The City is hoping the federal remediation project at Giant Mine will pay for an initial feasibility study, and staff submitted a funding proposal to that effect last month.

Both the Con and Giant mines have been out of commission since the early 2000s, the long-lived Con having been an operational gold mine from 1938 to 2003.

Imperial Oil remains a holdover tenant at the site. A City document stated the company is “working with the City to formally terminate their leasehold interest.”

Active remediation of the highly toxic Giant Mine site – a project expected to cost the federal government $1 billion or more – is set to begin in 2021 and last until 2030.

The Giant Mine dock would be off-limits for some, though not all, of that period according to federal officials.

“While the project team works to minimize the time that the public will not be able to access areas such as the boat launch, it is important to note that while work is being completed in those areas, they will remain closed,” reads a message posted to the federal remediation project’s website.

“Just like any other work site, it will not be safe for members of the public during active work. However, this short-term inconvenience will help make the area safer for the public and the environment for the long-term.”

In a briefing document, City staff indicated they expect to open a new Con Mine boat launch in time for the Giant Mine boat launch’s closure.

“The acquisition of the Con Marina lands will be timed so that the establishment of a functional waterfront facility in this area will coincide with the closure of the Giant Mine boat launch,” the document reads.

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