Giant Mine newsletter: Spring 2020

Get the most recent updates on the Giant Mine remediation project.

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Staying safe on site during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Giant Mine site care and management activities continue to protect the environment and keep the public safe. To address concerns about the virus while workers perform necessary tasks on site, Parsons Inc., the main construction manager, put in place a detailed COVID-19 Virus Response Plan and procedures. This plan has helped reduce the potential for contracting or spreading the virus while allowing essential care and maintenance activities that keep the site stable and safe to carry on. The plan applies to all Parsons staff, contractors, regulators and any possible visitors to the site. Keeping workers, as well as our communities, safe is important to the project team and we will continue to take appropriate measures to address all potential risks at site, including health risks from illnesses such as COVID-19.

Engagement delays for COVID-19 prevention

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the project team has postponed planned engagement. Sessions will be rescheduled once public health authorities advise it is safe to resume this type of activity. The team thanks the rights holders and stakeholders for their support and understanding while we undertake these precautionary measures.

Annual community forums

Giant Mine Remediation Project Director Chris MacInnis watches as 3 people check out the site using virtual reality technology at the Yellowknives Dene First Nation community forum
Giant Mine Remediation Project Director Chris MacInnis watches as 3 people check out the site using virtual reality technology at the Yellowknives Dene First Nation community forum.

In early March, the project team held its annual community forums, beginning with an update to Yellowknife City Council on March 9, 2020. The project team then held the forum for the general public that evening at the Museum Café, followed by community forums with the North Slave Métis Alliance and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation on March 10 and 11, 2020, respectively.

In addition to its regular updates about the site, engagement, socio-economic work and the regulatory process, the team provided an update on its borrow engagement. As well, the project team once again invited BGC Engineering to bring their HoloLens virtual reality headsets. These provide a unique way for the project to show interested parties both surface and underground features in a 3-D, virtual world. This gives people a better understanding of the magnitude, distances, and complexities of the project.

Socio-economic update

The project team held a workshop for the socio-economic working group on February 3 and 4, 2020 to kick off the development of a socio-economic implementation plan for the project. To help build this comprehensive plan, including identifying milestones and setting timelines, 28 participants attended the workshop. These participants represented a number of groups and organizations, including:

The socio-economic working group is using feedback and information gathered during the workshop to draft the socio-economic implementation plan, which will guide the project in its socio-economic activities as we move forward into active remediation. The working group, as well as the socio-economic advisory body, which is made up of senior-level federal, territorial and Indigenous partners and provides socio-economic advice and guidance to the team, will review the draft. The project anticipates providing the final plan to workshop participants and the public by end of June 2020.

Moving toward remediation work contracting

As the project moves closer to getting its water licence, it is also moving closer to being able to put contracts for work out to tender. As the team anticipates having the water licence in hand during the late summer. Contracts will start to roll out in 2021. These initial contracts will be of a shorter-term, lasting until the 2022 to 2023 fiscal year, as this is the current duration the Treasury Board has given the project authority to spend its approved budget. Seeking Treasury Board authority to spend the money already approved is the normal practice of how the Government of Canada approves project spending. The project is working on getting its next period of spending authorities, and once this period is in place, the project anticipates it will be able to initiate contracts of longer duration.

Starting in 2023, when the new spending authorities are set up, it is anticipated that most contracts will span more than 1 year, aligning with what industry recommends. The main construction manager will continue to use MERX to tender contracts as well as posting contracting opportunities to its website.

Contractor on the Giant Mine project wins award

The project team is always happy to hear about industry acknowledgment of its consultants and contractors and Nahanni Construction's recent award from the Slag Cement Association is no exception.

Slag cement is a type of hydraulic cement that is partly made with a finely ground by-product of smelting. Nahanni used slag cement during the 2018 stabilization of the underground C5-09 stope complex. In total, 69,436 m3 of backfill material was required to fill the complex — enough to fill up the Multiplex's gym 120 times!

More than 50,000 m3 of cemented tailings paste made up the bulk of the backfill material. To help keep the backfill stable, the Nahanni team also developed a self-leveling concrete mix that could be placed hundreds of feet below the surface in one large continuous pour. This was to create a plug layer mid-way through the backfill, to keep the tailings paste stable given the volume needed to fill the stope complex. It had to be a continuous pour to create one solid, stable concrete mass. It took more than 16,000 m3 of material to create this layer.

Nahanni chose to use slag cement as part of the mix because of its characteristics, which differ from the typical cement normally used around Yellowknife on other construction projects. Slag cement's properties helped minimize the quantity of a cement needed, so reduced product and delivery costs. Its properties also meant it could be poured down a borehole, fall freely for hundreds of feet, and then spread up to 160 feet horizontally without affecting its strength or curing rate.

A construction worker stands on a platform on a cement truck directing the blow of backfill material. Another construction worker stands on a platform and holds a large metal funnel delivering the material into the underground. Work trucks are visible in the background.
Workers pouring some of the backfill material.

All of this resulted in an enormous concrete plug, hundreds of feet below the surface, without any spaces or changes in the concrete that could cause instability, all of it poured remotely, and safely, from the surface.

Nahanni and the C5-09 project team were named the winner of the Project of the Year Award by the Slag Cement Association for its innovative application of this particular type of cement. From the project's perspective, Nahanni successfully stabilized the area to further reduce risks to the underground and surface. Congratulations on a job well done!

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