From Canadian Business magazine, April 27, 2009
Mining and environment
Mining: Sh*t happens but you move on
The saga of a contaminated mine.
"... Last November, civil engineer Martin Gavin became the second manager of the Giant Mine Remediation Project when his predecessor retired. Unless he lives forever, he will not be its last custodian.
His workplace is a ticking time bomb just five kilometres from downtown Yellowknife. Giant Mine operated between the 1940s and 2004. Many Canadians remember it as the site of an explosion that killed nine miners during a labour dispute in 1992. But Giant's other tragedy — its toxic legacy — began even before its first gold brick was poured in 1948.
Gold mining generates heaps of waste for every ounce of metal recovered. The bedrock of the Yellowknife area contains arsenopyrite, a natural mineral ore of iron, sulphur and arsenic. When Giant's gold-rich rock was pulverized and then roasted to extract the precious metal, the process also created an arsenic-rich gas that combined with oxygen and cooled to form arsenic trioxide, a grey dust. Its unremarkable appearance masks its toxicity: dab a small amount on your tongue and you're finished...."