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Commemorating Danger: Toxic Hazards and Communicating with Future Generations at an Abandoned Gold Mine

Sat, April 1, 10:30am to 12:00pm, The Drake Hotel, Walton So.


The intensive exploitation of minerals during North America’s industrial era has left thousands of abandoned mines spread throughout the continent. Many of these sites contain toxic and acid generating material that will have to be contained and monitored for centuries, perhaps thousands of years. Yet there is almost no literature on the practical issue of commemorating toxic hazards for future generations so they will be able to properly maintain and possibly remediate these sites over time

This paper will analyze the work of community-based project to communicate toxic dangers to future generations at Giant Mine, an abandoned gold mining operation near Yellowknife where 237,000 tons of arsenic is stored underground. The Canadian government is currently planning to freeze this material underground until a technological solution can be found to enable remediation. For the past three years, the author and a team of researchers has worked with local community groups, government, and other stakeholders to develop a strategy for communicating the arsenic hazards and perpetual care requirements at Giant Mine. Our experience suggests that any communication strategy must incorporate the multiple ways different constituents (workers, heritage advocates, First Nations, etc.) have known the mine. We also argue that any program to commemorate hazards for future generations can also raise painful memories of historical environmental injustices associated with mine pollution, in this case the pollution of land and water in the traditional territories of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.