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No giant cost increase in Canada's Giant Mine's cleanup

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

The federal government of Canada maintains there has been no increase to the costs of cleaning up the Giant Mine site in Yellowknife, the capital city of the country’s Northwest Territories. The denial comes despite federal documents which show the total cost to clean up the site is expected to be close to $1 billion, which is double the initial estimate.

Now, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, which is managing the cleanup, has released a breakdown of the costs. In an email response, the Giant Mine cleanup team split up the costs.

The $449 million price tag from officials has not changed. But on top of that, the government has already spent $160 million to maintain the site since the federal government took it over in 1999. There is also another $34 million in GST costs.

Part of the government’s denial of the escalating costs comes from the definition of what it means to clean up the site.

It will cost an extra $260 to maintain and manage the site for the next few years. That will also cover contracts, including $25.7 million to tear down and move the roaster complex — the most contaminated building on site.

There is no detailed breakdown of that money, and the government says it is not being budgeted as part of the cleanup estimate.

That work is being fast-tracked — it is no longer being considered part of the environmental assessment, and it now appears to be budgeted separately as well.

Meanwhile, the Mackenzie Valley Review Board is still deliberating on whether to approve the government’s proposed cleanup plan.

No one from aboriginal affairs has agreed to an interview despite frequent requests over the past few weeks.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.