The Government of the Northwest Territories (NWT) and Canada are working together collaboratively to ensure activities are completed to minimize potential risk at the former Ptarmigan Mine site.
Work is being initiated following an investigation under the territorial Environmental Rights Act (ERA) that brought forward concerns about dust blowing onto the Ingraham Trail near the Ptarmigan Mine site in advance of the completion of negotiations to determine which government will be responsible for the site.
Actions to be Taken
The federal and territorial governments are working together to ensure that activities to minimize potential risks at the former Ptarmigan Mine site are completed in the interim until negotiations are completed.
These actions will include:
- Ensuring fences are maintained and fixed to restrict public access to the site this fall
- Conducting a dust suppression program beginning in the spring, and
- Starting work on a Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment (HHERA) in the next fiscal year, with completion anticipated in the winter of 2023
Canada will contribute funding in support of this work which is intended to provide economic benefits to the north, while the GNWT will manage these contracts to support capacity building. The fencing work will be completed this fiscal year and the dust suppression and HHERA will begin next fiscal year.
The investigation was initiated under the ERA this year at the request of an applicant who was concerned about dust blowing onto the Ingraham Trail near the Ptarmigan Mine site.
The results of the investigation indicate that samples taken from some areas of the tailings containment area contain levels of arsenic and other metals that exceed guidelines for soil.
Whether there are impacts on the surrounding environment where dust may have settled requires completion of a HHERA.
A link to the investigation report is provided at the end of this release.
Understanding the Risk
These findings do not necessarily mean that there is risk to the environment or to people in the area. The HHERA will determine the level of risk.
It is important that residents avoid the Ptarmigan Mine site including the tailings area to reduce any risk.
Please follow signage in the area and respect any barriers or fences that have been put up.
We urge ATV and snow machine users to be especially careful to avoid accessing the area. Avoiding the area will prevent disturbance of the tailings and allow the dust suppressant to work once applied.
Background on the Environmental Rights Act (ERA)
The ERA recognizes the right of the residents of the NWT to protect the integrity, biological diversity, and productivity of the NWT’s ecosystems – and the important role residents play in that protection.
Under the ERA, any resident who believes, on reasonable grounds, that an act or omission has occurred that has caused or is likely to cause significant harm to the environment, may apply to the Minister for an investigation.
The ERA provides an overarching commitment to ensuring a healthy environment for NWT citizens.
Background on the Ptarmigan Mine Site
Ptarmigan Mine is one of six mine sites designated as Excepted Waste Sites in the 2014 Devolution Agreement.
Management responsibility for these sites has yet to be determined and is pending the outcome of negotiations between Canada and the GNWT.
Both the GNWT and Canada are working to conclude these negotiations to bring certainty to management of these contaminated sites going forward.
Between 2014 and 2017, the GNWT completed environmental sites assessments, a remedial action plan, and took measures to mitigate safety risks at the Ptarmigan Mine site by installing signs and fencing.
“We are pleased to collaborate with the federal government on these interim measures to minimize any risk associated with the arsenic and other metals found in the samples taken from the area. We are grateful to the individual who requested the investigation and we welcome future resident engagement in environmental management.”
- Shane Thompson, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources
- The HHERA will begin this winter with completion anticipated in the winter of 2023.
- A HHERA evaluates the risks to people and the environment when exposed to contaminants.
- Similar work has been done at Giant Mine – including an assessment of offsite contaminants and their potential effects on human health.
For media requests, please contact:
Communications Planning Specialist
Environment and Natural Resources
Government of the Northwest Territories