Exploration company Gold Terra says it is cleaning up after an inspector criticized “blatant disregard” for environmental requirements on a frozen lake near Yellowknife.
Gold Terra is exploring for gold by drilling at the north end of Walsh Lake, a site the company has named Mispickel. Last week, Gold Terra told residents Mispickel had the potential to become “a very good asset for the company and for Yellowknife.”
However, Department of Lands inspector Clint Ambrose on Friday told Gold Terra he was “very disappointed with the cleanliness” of most of the Mispickel drilling sites.
Waste rock from the drilling process and patches of hydraulic fluid can be seen on the ice in photos taken by the inspector.
“Since hydraulic fluid is visible on ice and snow, the inspector cannot understand how it was missed by the permittee and contractor,” Ambrose wrote, referring to permittee Gold Terra and the contractor, drilling company Boart Longyear, hired by Gold Terra to complete the work.
“Non-compliance with operating conditions of the land use permit will not be tolerated during future operations,” Ambrose warned.
Reached by phone on Monday, Gold Terra chief operating officer Joe Campbell acknowledged the clean-up had not been good enough and said the process of cleaning up the site was under way.
“Gold Terra is ultimately responsible for this so we’re not ignoring that, and I’ve been in touch directly with the inspector. Obviously, this is a big disappointment for us, too,” Campbell said.
“We’ve been working there for eight years and this is the first time we’ve had a failure. We’re taking it very seriously. I’m in the process of writing a letter to our board of what actions we can take in terms of dealing with the contractor.”
Campbell said Boart Longyear had been hired to oversee the drilling process on Walsh Lake but Gold Terra had cut the contractor’s program short “for many reasons.”
“They left the site a week ago and now we’re left with this clean-up,” Campbell said.
“We have to go back and look, at our end, why we didn’t pick up on this earlier as the program was going on. We didn’t realize this problem was ongoing.
“The inspector had every right to use strong language. We failed.”
Boart Longyear, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, states on its website that it has been “operating safely, with integrity, and drilling with results since 1890.” The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Campbell said drilling of the kind taking place on Walsh Lake ordinarily requires that waste be transported first to a secure area at least 100 metres from the shoreline, then removed to a dedicated waste facility as necessary. He said Gold Terra is now carrying out that work.
“In this case, because the material that’s in the piles contains hydraulic fluids and some other debris and garbage, we actually have to transport it to the KBL waste facility in Yellowknife. We’re in the process of doing that. We’ll continue to scrape the ice down until it meets the inspector’s approval,” he said.
“We don’t anticipate any consequences or damages once our clean-up is done. Nothing has gone into the lake, nothing will remain that will go into the lake. Still, it’s not the way we are supposed to operate.
“It’s a black eye for us and very disappointing. All I can say is it’s a contractor that won’t be on our site again, and that’s unfortunate.”