Giant Mine’s shameful legacy toward the Yellowknives – Editorial (Yellowknifer – January 23, 2020)

The concept of providing financial amends for historic injustices that have negatively impacted people to this day is getting renewed attention.

Reparations for American slavery, for example, is a proposal that argues that compensation of some sort should be paid to the descendants of slaves brought to this continent from Sub-Saharan Africa. But who would be paid, how much and, most importantly, where would the money come from?

The first prospectors and miners in North America were the first people to live here. Indigenous people utilized minerals for tools, weapons and in their artworks. Then came the Europeans who would revolutionize the way gems, minerals, oil and gas were extracted, forging a major economic component in our country’s development.

That included Giant Mine, what was one of Canada’s richest gold mines, located in Yellowknife. Over its 50-year lifespan, the 900-hectare operation produced over seven million ounces of gold. It also produced arsenic-laden tailings and tonnes of arsenic trioxide dust literally blowing in the wind over Indigenous communities and Yellowknife.

That dust is now contained at the site in underground vaults, but did blow around freely for years. A 2019 University of Ottawa study concluded arsenic levels found in urine, saliva and toenail samples taken from residents in Yellowknife, Ndilo and Dettah are on par with the Canadian average.

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