Arsenic in the Yellowknife area
Arsenic occurs naturally in the earth’s soil, rock and water and is often found alongside gold. While not hazardous to our health where it is found naturally, it can be released as a dust into the environment during mining activities. In this form, it can impact people, land, air, and water if in high enough quantities/levels.
In the area surrounding Yellowknife, Ndilǫ, and Dettah, the Government of the Northwest Territories, in collaboration with university researchers, has conducted monitoring and specific human health and ecological studies of arsenic levels in water, sediments, soils and fish.
Are we safe?
The short answer is yes. The GNWT monitors our environment and issues updates on both environmental health and human health. For more information see:
What about other activities?
Check the arsenic brochure: Legacy arsenic around Yellowknife: Human Health Risk Assessment
Great Slave Lake, Back Bay and Yellowknife Bay
- All types of recreational activities are safe including swimming and wading.
- It is safe to fish.
- Children should not put mud or sediments in their mouths.
- It is safe to pick berries.
- It is safe to hunt and consume wild game harvested from the Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah area.
- It is safe to eat garden vegetables grown near Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah.
- Mushrooms are safe to pick and eat 25 km from Yellowknife. Most (edible) mushrooms 10 km from Yellowknife are safe, except for pine mushrooms and common funnel mushrooms (Tricholomataceae family).
- First time mushroom pickers should go with an experienced person, especially when planning to eat what is gathered.
- Check the identity of your mushrooms with an experienced harvester, buyer or biologist.
Kam Lake, Frame Lake, Jackfish Lake, Rat Lake, Peg Lake, Meg Lake, Fox Lake, Handle Lake, Gar Lake, David Lake, and other lakes near Giant Mine
- It is safe to boat, water ski, canoe, and hike in and around these lakes.
- Swimming and wading are not recommended.
- People should avoid picking mushrooms or berries within 10 km of the old Giant and Con mine sites.
For more information on how we determine what activities and areas are safe, check out the links on the left-hand side of this page.
The GNWT Department of Health and Social Services has some good information, guidance and specific Q&As about how you can use the land and water, and whether you can eat country foods.
- Arsenic in Lake Water Around Yellowknife (2019). https://www.hss.gov.nt.ca/en/newsroom/arsenic-lake-water-around-yellowknife