NWT is willing to miss out on the economic benefits of redeveloping the Giant mine, the board says
The Northwest Territories will miss out on the numerous economic opportunities arising from the multi-billion dollar redevelopment of the Yellowknife Giant Mine, says the board overseeing the mine’s redevelopment.
“Where is the strategy to take advantage of this spending?” David Livingstone, chairman of the Giant Mine Oversight Board, testified before a committee of MLAs on Wednesday.
“There’s this huge opportunity and it’s slipping through our fingers and it’s very frustrating.”
Livingstone said it is the responsibility of the Northwest Territories government to ensure that funds spent on the rehabilitation of the Giant Mine and future rehabilitation projects in the Territory remain in the NWT
He made his comments during a public briefing on the clean-up of the abandoned gold mine and how that clean-up could improve the territory’s economy – that is, if the NWT government makes a concerted effort to reap its benefits.
The Giant Mine operated from 1948 to 2004. The federal government assumed responsibility for the mine after then-owner Royal Oak Mines Inc. filed for bankruptcy in 1999.
Last November, the Giant Mine Remediation Project updated the estimated cost of remediation from $1 billion to $4.38 billion. Taxpayers bear these costs.
Mine clean-up includes backfilling of pits, demolition of buildings, construction of a state-of-the-art water treatment plant and containment of around 237,000 tons of highly toxic arsenic trioxide dust deep underground.
The oversight board estimates that the redevelopment project will spend around US$240 million annually over the next 15 years and add US$108 million per year to the territory’s GDP.
Graeme Clinton, economist and director of the oversight board, said spending on remediation will flow into industries like waste management, construction, mining services, scientific services, transportation, logistics, lodging and medical services — industries that exist in the NWT
The problem, Clinton said, is that demand for these services currently outstrips local supply.
NWT’s ability to benefit from the redevelopment of the Giant Mine, he added, extends only as far as its ability to meet the project’s labor and business requirements.
“If you want to grow the economy and capitalize on the spending that comes with the Giant Mine or other redevelopment projects in the region, then it’s about addressing supply issues across all of those industries so you can capture a larger fraction or fraction of that.” money flowing into the economy,” he said.
Refurbishment project fails to meet employment targets
The state-run Giant Mine Remediation Project tracks employment by hours worked. It was reported that Northerners averaged about 45 percent of the total hours worked, and Indigenous workers about 21 percent.
The rehabilitation project falls short of its employment targets in both categories.
His target for hours worked by Northerners is between 55 and 70 percent and his target for Indigenous workers is 25 to 35 percent.
The redevelopment of the Giant Mine began in 2020 and is scheduled to be completed in 2038.
Natalie Plato, deputy director of the remediation project, said the team had extended its timeline by nine years, in large part to maximize involvement from NWT workers and companies.
Clinton said it might be unrealistic to expect Northerners to do 100 percent of the work at the Giant Mine, but that that would be the goal if the government were to maximize the benefits of the cleanup.
‘Better late than never’
“If we’re really going to build capacity in the Northwest Territories, it depends on our education system,” said Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby.
“We don’t graduate people in the Northwest Territories who can then become these specific types of professionals that Giant Mine needs.”
Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly asked if it was too late in the project schedule to capture more of the expenses being incurred at the mine.
“Better late than never,” Livingstone replied. “But it won’t go away on its own.”