October 2007    Print this article

$4.1 million to clean up 18 exploration sites in the Nord-du-Québec region

On August 24, 2007, the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune (MRNF), the Kativik Regional Government (KRG), the Makivik Corporation and the Fonds Restor-Action Nunavik entered into a $4.1 million agreement to clean up 18 abandoned mineral exploration sites in Nunavik. The agreement provides for the sites to be totally cleaned up by spring 2012. The rehabilitation will be managed by the KRG.

The extended timespan of the work is due to Nunavik's severe climate, as well as to the dispersion of sites and to virtually inexistent road infrastructure. However, some work was carried out in summer 2007, including continuing the Blue Lake site pilot project and cleaning up the Pio Lake and Aupaluk Lake sites, cleaning up site SW-34, and visiting 14 other sites targeted by the project.

This major cleanup shows that environmental and social considerations are now part and parcel of mineral development activities in Québec. This approach is particularly important in Nunavik, where mining activity is rapidly expanding. In fact, in the past two years, some mineral exploration companies have cleaned up old exploration sites on their own, although there was no legislation forcing them to. This initiative, praised by the MRNF, is a sign of the environmental concern of mineral development companies.

It should be noted that, in 1999, the Kativik Regional Government (KRG), with the support of the federal and provincial governments, began the long process leading to the cleanup of abandoned mineral exploration sites in Nunavik. Initial forecasts, based on government archives and the testimony of villagers, indicated that there were 600 potential sites. The 2001 and 2002 inventory programs reduced this number to less than 275 sites to be cleaned up.

Note also that the great majority of sites had little impact on the environment (a dilapidated shelter and a few empty barrels. However, 18 sites are considered “major. Cleanup of these sites has become a priority for Nunavik.

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© Gouvernement du Québec, 2007