Former Giant Mine boss says she ‘took too much risk’

Workers underground at Yellowknife's toxic Giant Mine site - INAC-Twitter
Workers underground at Yellowknife's toxic Giant Mine site. INAC/Twitter

The woman who owned Yellowknife’s Giant Mine when it went bust says she “took too much risk” in her career.

Margaret Kent, known as Peggy Witte at the time, spoke to the Northern Miner website at the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in March. Audio from that interview was published in Northern Miner’s podcast this week.

Speaking for more than an hour on her career and current projects, Kent occasionally addresses her time as chief executive of Royal Oak Mines, the company she founded in 1990.

Royal Oak operated a range of mines stretching from Newfoundland to British Columbia, including the Giant, Tundra, and Colomac mines in the NWT.



Those mine sites came under federal control when Royal Oak went out of business in 1999, leaving Ottawa with a potential $1-billion clean-up operation at Giant Mine, where 237,000 tonnes of toxic arsenic trioxide – a byproduct of Giant’s gold roasting technique – still lie underground.

Tundra Mine’s remediation has just been declared complete at a cost of $110 million. Colomac Mine’s remediation concluded in 2011 at an estimated cost of $70 million.

“What I would say is that everybody has some winners and some losers. I probably took more risk than 95 percent of the mining executives out there,” Kent told the Northern Miner toward the end of her interview.

“I look at people that are running some of these senior companies and they don’t know, they don’t have any idea. They never had to go in and land a DC-3 on the ice, deal with these things.



“They’ve come up through Bay Street, through senior positions in the mines, and they just don’t … I took too much risk, I think. I think we just took too much risk.”

Part 1: The Margaret Kent story – Northern Miner podcast

Part 2: The Margaret Kent story – Northern Miner podcast

Several times in the interview, Kent described being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Royal Oak’s operation of Giant Mine under Kent included an infamous and violent labour dispute lasting 18 months, in which the company locked out the local union and had strikebreakers flown to Yellowknife to replace them.

Nine people were killed in an underground explosion in 1992, a bombing for which Roger Warren was later convicted.

In her interview, Kent referred to her time running Royal Oak as “controversial stuff.”

She said: “All the headaches of running mines. 2,000 employees, five operating gold mines, three labour unions, spanning the country from the east coast all the way up to the Northwest Territories. I think that probably put more grey hair on me than anything.”