Giant Mine remediation approval process is a rare example of
the federal government having to seek an environmental assessment
approval in order to remediate harm that it already caused. This
put the government, more used to the role of regulator, in the role
of proponent. In that role, government lawyer Kenneth Landa
experienced the stresses and dissonance of trying to fit the environmental assessment hearing process to a
set of complex problems it was never designed for. This illustrates
one of many ways that current environmental assessment processes
for major projects raise public expectations that they cannot
For example: Unlike most projects that go through environmental
assessment, everyone did agree that the heavily contaminated and
highly dangerous mine site does require remediation. But is the EA
hearing panel or the federal Treasury Board to decide how much federal
taxpayer money is to be spent on the project? Who gets to decide
the public interest in such a conflict? What is the legal effect if
native people in Yellowknife refuse to consent to the consequences
of a cost limit imposed by Treasury Board (considering that the
project will already cost $1 billion for a temporary solution)?
Many local people, including First Nations, wanted all the arsenic
dug up and taken somewhere else, anywhere else, at enormously
greater expense and at risk to many other people. Who speaks for
the people in those other places, and what is their role in a
public hearing in Yellowknife?
Ken Landa gave a well received talk about these challenges in
Ottawa earlier this month. He has kindly allowed me to post his
Ken Landa on Giant Mine EA.
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