Canada's top five federal contaminated sites will cost taxpayers billions to clean up

Canada’s top five federal contaminated sites will cost taxpayers billions to clean up


At an estimated cost of $4.38 billion, the cleanup of Giant Mine, one of Canada’s most contaminated sites, is also expected to be the costliest federal environmental cleanup in the country’s history.

The figure, recently approved by the Treasury Board of Canada, covers costs from 2005 to 2038, when active remediation at the former Yellowknife gold mine is scheduled to end. This includes $710 million that the federal government says has already been spent, but does not include long-term care and maintenance costs.

“I don’t mind as long as it will cost $4 billion to clean up Giant Mine. What really bothers me is that the taxpayer is covering that cost,” said David Livingstone, chairman of the mine’s supervisory board. Giant.

This indicates that the federal government has failed to ensure that private developers provide financial security to remediate sites. He said that while it has gotten better over time, there will likely be more problems in the future.

“As a society, we need to better understand what it costs us to support the mining industry and the oil and gas industry,” he said. “If the figures suggest cleaning up a site will cost more than that site generated in revenue for the Crown, we have a problem.”

There are more than 20,000 locations listed in the inventory of federal contaminated sites, dumps and mines abandoned to military operations on federal lands.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, after Giant Mine, the four most expensive cleanups are Faro Mine in the Yukon, Port Hope Area Initiative in Ontario, Esquimalt Harbor in British Columbia and United Mine Keno Hill in the Yukon.

More than $2 billion has been spent on the five sites so far, and they are expected to cost taxpayers billions more in years to come. Their final prices are not yet known.

The most recent figures from the Treasury Board of Canada indicate that more than $707 million has been spent on remediation, care and maintenance at the Faro mine, a former open-pit lead-zinc mine. Its remediation project is expected to take 15 years and is currently estimated at $1 billion, plus $166 million for the first 10 years of long-term operation and maintenance.

Parsons Inc. was awarded a $108 million contract in February for construction, care and maintenance at the Faro mine through March 2026, with the option to extend the contract for the duration of active remediation . The company said the contract could ultimately span 20 years and top $2 billion.

In 2012, Ottawa committed $1.28 billion over 10 years to clean up historic low-level radioactive waste in the municipalities of Port Hope and Port Grandby, Ontario. To date, over $722 million has been spent on assessment and remediation.

The Port Grandby project was completed earlier this year and has been in long-term monitoring for hundreds of years. The Port Hope cleanup, which began in 2018, will continue through 2030.

The seabed cleanup at Esquimalt Harbor in Victoria currently has a budget of $162.5 million. About $214 million has already been spent on remediation and assessment. The Department of National Defense said this could include costs before 2015, when the remediation project began.

Cleanup of United Keno Hill Mine, a historic silver, lead and zinc mining property near the Yukon town of Keno, would cost $125 million, including $79 million during its active reclamation phase. state. This is expected to start in 2023 and last for five years, followed by a two-year transition phase and then long-term monitoring and maintenance. So far, more than $67 million has been spent on site remediation, upkeep and maintenance.

Other expensive federal sites that have been cleared include the Cape Dyer Dew-Line, 21 former radar stations in the Arctic, for $575 million, Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens on Cape Island -Breton, Nova Scotia, for nearly $398 million, and 5 Wing Goose Bay Air Force Base in Labrador, for $142.9 million.

The 2022 public accounts show the gross liability for the 2,524 federal contaminated sites where action is required is nearly $10 billion, according to site assessments. Of the 3,079 unassessed sites, 1,330 are expected to undergo remediation with an estimated liability of $256 million.

The Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan was established in 2005 with funding of $4.54 billion over 15 years. This was renewed for another 15 years, from 2020 to 2034, with a commitment of $1.16 billion for the first five years.

Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada said the contamination at Giant Mine highlights the importance of the process of planning and evaluating development projects.

“If you don’t do any planning around something, you can end up with a pretty awful mess,” he said. “In this case, it killed people before they even started capturing arsenic. We don’t want that to happen again.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 27, 2022.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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