Giant Mine Oversight Board is supporting research for a permanent solution to manage arsenic trioxide stored underground at the Giant Mine Site. 237,000 tons of arsenic trioxide dust are currently stored in fourteen underground chambers at the Giant Mine site. After evaluating a wide range of technical solutions to manage potential environmental impacts associated with the dust, the Project Team determined that its preferred method was to permanently freeze the dust and the rock around each underground chamber.
The Environmental Assessment of the remediation project concluded that the “frozen block” method was the most appropriate technical solution currently available. However, it was also determined that “freezing” should not be viewed as the permanent solution and that emerging technologies must continue to be investigated.
As a result, GMOB, through Article 7 of the Giant Mine Remediation Environmental Agreement, has been tasked with supporting research into technical approaches that could serve as a permanent solution. Below, is a plain language overview of the challenge that the GMOB research program addresses.
- The Challenge at Giant Mine: Finding a permanent Solution for stored arsenic trioxide dust
- Our Research Program: The Giant Mine Oversight Board (GMOB) research program
In August 2017, GMOB released the “Giant Mine State of Knowledge Review: Arsenic Dust Management Strategies” report which considered the state of current remediation technologies that could be considered for future arsenic trioxide remediation.
A gathering of administrators of research institutions and programs was held to discuss the required steps to develop the GMOB Research Program. The meeting recommended approaching TERRE-NET to establish of a collaborative research program.
TERRE-NET brings together leading experts from Canadian universities working in the fields of geochemistry, hydrogeology, mineralogy, biogeochemistry, mine effluent treatment, geotechnical engineering, nanotechnology, environmental microbiology, resource economics, environmental sociology, and interactions with Aboriginal communities. Through an integrated approach, the network develops improved, cost-effective, and socially acceptable strategies for managing mine tailings and mitigating contamination. It is headquartered at the University of Waterloo.
GMOB hosted a workshop (March 19-20, 2018) in Yellowknife with TERRE-NET. This provided further context for the research mandate and introduced TERRE-NET’s expertise. Regular meetings deciding on the progressive steps were held with GMOB attending TERRE-NET’s AGM in 2018 and 2019. Guests from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the North Slave Metis Alliance attended the 2018 event at GMOBs invitation. The University of Waterloo was engaged for a formal document review and presented their findings at a workshop in Edmonton (October 2-4, 2018). It was at this meeting that the focus of the joint research program was developed.
GMOB signed a four-year Master Research Agreement with the University of Waterloo on May 3, 2019. This agreement guides the administration of the GMOB Research Program and approved four research initiatives:
Research Project 1: Schedule B-2: Examination of Arsenic trioxide dust composition and solubility.
This will be led by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan and Queens University
Research Project 2: Schedule B-3: Sulfidation of Arsenic trioxide to form low solubility Arsenic trisulphide.
This will be led by researchers at the University of Ottawa
Research Project 3: Schedule B-4: Stabilization of Arsenic trioxide dust in cemented paste backfill.
This will be led by researchers at the University of Alberta and the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
Research Project 4: Schedule B-5: Geochemical and leaching characterization of vitrified arsenical glass.
This will be led by researchers at the University of Waterloo.
Due to pandemic restrictions, all research initiatives were affected. An adjusting amendment to the schedules was made in early 2021 pending the opening of the research laboratories. GMOB and TERRE-NET remain committed to the Master Agreement and the research streams and subsequently the agreement has been modified and will continue until 2026.
GMOB Research Program Report
GMOB hosted a Research Program Public Meeting on November 14, 2023, in Yellowknife, NWT. This meeting shared the results of the GMOB research program to date, focused primarily on the dust stored underground at the Giant Mine site. A plain language report was produced in preparation for the meeting as a reference to the presentations and resulting questions and comments.
Research Proposal Submissions
The Giant Mine Oversight Board invites research proposals that are specific to the remediation of the stored underground arsenic trioxide. Submissions will be formally evaluated by an independent research committee. The deadline for submissions is September 1st of each year. In order to effectively review proposals, GMOB requires that the Research Proposal Template provided below be followed. All elements must be present, labeled, and in sequence. If any element is not applicable to the proposed study, please supply the reason rather than leave the section blank as a blank section reflects an incomplete submission.
If you have any questions in this regard please contact the GMOB office.
Resources and Links: GMOB Research Program
- Factsheet: GMOB research program overview
- Factsheet: Challenges managing arsenic trioxide
- GMOB Research Proposal template
- Frozen Block Method information (Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada)
- Arsenic Trioxide information (Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada)
- Arsenic Trioxide Waste Storage information (Government of the Northwest Territories)