The province has turned to northern and First Nations leaders for support to apply pressure on the federal government to commit funds to the reclamation of the Gunnar Mine.
Energy and Resources Minister Bronwyn Eyre has written to Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation Chief Louis Mercedi, with an attached distribution list of other leaders.
In that letter, Eyre references a 2006 agreement between Ottawa and the province that would equal share the costs of cleaning up the Gunnar Mine and 36 satellite mines in the Uranium City area.
Yet she asserts that Ottawa has only funded $13.3 million, compared with the provincial commitment at $160 million. The total costs are estimated at $280 million.
Eyre claims that with the federal government regulating uranium during the 1950’s and 1960’s for the Cold War, this would make them financially responsible.
The distribution list includes the Assembly of First Nations, Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Black Lake First Nation, Prince Albert Grand Council and the Hatchet Lake First Nation.
“We are asking that the people on this distribution list to support our effort formally on the record. And to support the position that the federal government must pay its equal agreed to share for this environmental cleanup,” explained Eyre.
Eyre is trying to tap into federal reclamation money for abandoned mines in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, which were federally regulated and commissioned, prior to those two territories receiving authority over mining.
Remediation includes the demolition and burial of 84 structures, including the uranium mill, two acid plants, a head-frame, uranium processing buildings and the small 800-person community. Asbestos, uranium tailings, sulfur and waste rock also need to be safely dealt with.
The Gunnar mine began production in 1955 and was shut down in 1963. Gunnar Mining Limited, the operator of the mine, ceased to exist by the mid-1980’s.
In November 2018, the province launched a lawsuit alleging breech of the funding agreement. At that time, Eyre said
“We are not walking away. We are not suspending work; we are not suspending contracts. We are simply asking; we are imploring the federal government to pay its fair share of continuing remediation work.”
Eyre explained that the case is in mediation and progressing through the court.
(Picture: Gunnar Mine.)