Thursday, November 19, 2009

Giant Mine arsenic spill raises safety questions

Giant Mine arsenic spill raises safety questions

CBC News, October 2009. A recent arsenic spill at the defunct Giant Mine near Yellowknife is raising concerns about safety and the reporting of spills at mine sites.

Drilling at the former gold mine has been stopped while the federal government awaits results from soil, water and air-quality tests done since the spill last week. According to a spill report, arsenic dust was released from a borehole at the mine site around 1 a.m. on Oct. 22, contaminating the area within five to 10 metres of the hole. A male worker in the area, who was wearing a waterproof suit and respirator, was washed down afterwards with a pressure washer. The man has not experienced health problems so far, according to the report.

The federal Indian and Northern Affairs Department, which is overseeing cleanup and remediation of the Giant site, did not find out about the spill until Oct. 24, two days after it happened. The company that was working at the site at the time, the Deton'Cho Nuna joint venture, declined to comment.

Since June, test drilling has been done at the Giant Mine site as part of the federal government's plan to freeze toxic arsenic trioxide dust, the byproduct of gold production, in large refrigerated chambers underground.

The federal department determined the work did not require a land-use permit. But the department's head of inspections and enforcement at the Giant site said Deton'Cho Nuna joint venture was operating under old regulations, using principles that have applied in the past.

"They're not operating willy-nilly out there," Darnell McCurdy said. "They are being guided by some principles that were issued in previous permits. And that goes back to when Giant was actually operating and that type of thing."

Last Updated: Thursday, October 29, 2009 | 3:27 PM CT

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