More than $350 million of taxpayer dollars in the past two decades — over a quarter billion dollars in the past decade alone — has been spent to clean up the abandoned Faro mine site, a moonscape of waste rock and mustard yellow ponds in the mountains of south-central Yukon.
But, according to the Treasury Board of Canada’s annual reports posted online, nothing has been remediated: Zero. Zip. Nadda.
“Actual cubic metres remediated: zero; actual hectares remediated: zero; actual tonnes remediated: zero.”
“The federal government has a huge obligation in my opinion to ensure that these mines are cleaned up, because it came under their jurisdiction, came under their watch, they operated (the Crown corporation) Eldorado Nuclear (and) they were supplying the U.S. with this valuable uranium,” said Buckley Belanger, NDP MLA for Athabasca.
Located near Uranium City on the northern shore of Lake Athabasca, about 800 kilometres north of Saskatoon, the Gunnar mine was abandoned in 1963 with virtually no cleanup work. In 2006, the federal and provincial governments signed a memorandum of agreement to evenly split the cost of the cleanup, which involves “remediating” 4.4 million tonnes of radioactive mine tailings, the flooded mine pit and other debris left on the site.
The project was originally expected to cost $24.6 million and take 17 years to complete, according to Natural Resources Canada documents. However, the cost has since ballooned to more than $250 million, about $60 million of which has been spent on site preparation — including tearing down asbestos-laced buildings — and studies. Remediation of the tailings deposits began this year but it remains unclear how the bill will be split.