YELLOWKNIFE, August 2, 2005 - The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of the Environment, today announced that the Government of Canada is investing $138.7 million in measures to help remediate 97 priority contaminated sites under federal responsibility across Canada. An additional $14.3 million has been earmarked for the assessment of an estimated 500 sites, which will determine the next steps and the scientific support that is necessary.
The funding is part of the Budget 2004 long-term commitment of $3.5 billion to remediate contaminated sites under federal responsibility.
Minister Dion made the announcement in Yellowknife, at the site of the former Giant Mine which is among the higher risk sites in the Canadian North designated under the Action Plan for Federal Contaminated Sites. The Government of Canada is trying to reduce the dangers that contaminants pose to human health and the environment.
"Our environment is the jewel of our Canadian heritage. The Government of Canada takes seriously its responsibility to protect this heritage and the health of the Canadian public by remediating sites under federal responsibility," said Minister Dion. "We are taking action with concrete measures necessary to undo the harmful effects of past practices, while ensuring that from now on environmentally-friendly values necessary to health are applied on the human, environmental and economic levels in Canada."
Yellowknife's Giant Mine began operations in 1948 and has a long and impressive history as one of Canada's earliest and richest gold mines. Over its lifespan, Giant Mine produced more than 7 million ounces of gold and played a significant role as a major employer and economic engine for Canada's North. The mine reverted back to the Crown in 1999 when the mine's owner at the time, Royal Oak Mines Inc., went into receivership. The main issue at Giant is the 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide dust stored underground at the site. The dust was created during the gold production process. The Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories are working in collaboration to develop long-term remediation solutions. In the interim, Giant Mine is currently under care and maintenance. Activities at the site this year will involve additional site investigations, assessments and surface remediation activities.
"Canada's North includes some of the country's most complex clean ups that's what makes our commitment to remediation so important," said the Honourable Andy Scott, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non status Indians. "The interim care and maintenance work at Giant Mine, one of the highest priority sites in the country, is just one example of how federal investment is helping to ensure we effectively move forward on clean up activities for the protection of the environment and human health for Northerners."
"The clean up of contaminated sites in the North is important for our environment, health and our economy. One of our objectives when remediating contaminated sites in the North is to promote social and economic benefits for local First Nations, Metis, Inuit and Northerners," remarked the Honourable Ethel Blondin Andrew, Member of Parliament for the Western Arctic and Minister of State (Northern Development). "From contracting opportunities, advanced training and job creation, clean ups at contaminated sites like Giant Mine will leave a positive lasting legacy in terms of the local economy and a skilled workforce."
The Government of Canada has also put mechanisms in place to prevent new sites from becoming contaminated by substances that might pose a risk to human health and the environment.
To ensure the remediation of contaminated sites is carried out in a timely, effective and well-coordinated manner, the Government of Canada will develop a strategic long-term plan and will report on progress to Canadians each year.
The Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan supports the Government of Canada's Project Green, a comprehensive environmental vision aimed at a sustainable environment and a more competitive economy. Project Green incorporates immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term goals and initiatives for promoting a clean and healthy environment.
You can view the federal contaminated sites inventory at: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/dfrp-rbif/cs-sc.
For more information, please contact:
Office of the Minister of the Environment
Indian Northern Affairs Canada
Enquiries for a specific site should be directed to the Federal Department responsible (as per the attached backgrounder).
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