Stark Lake Exploration Site Remediation Project
Learn about the Stark Lake Exploration Site Remediation Project, the work done to date and what's ahead.
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The Stark Lake site is a former uranium exploration site on the eastern shores of Stark Lake. The site is located 20 kilometres east of Łutselk'e on the shores of Regina Bay in Stark Lake, Northwest Territories. Historically, community members used the site for fishing and hunting.
Uranium exploration on the site took place during the late 1940s and early 1950s. A drilling, trenching and bulk sampling program was undertaken in 1950, followed by the establishment of an adit, which is an entrance to an underground mine, into the "C" vein. The "C" vein was the most promising of several showings at the site. Additional exploration of the uranium-bearing ore from the adit was undertaken in the early 1950s but was discontinued in 1954 due to low grade ore and tonnage.
In 1969, Hudson's Bay Oil and Gas Company Ltd. completed geophysical survey work. No further exploration is recorded to have taken place at the site after that, and the site was abandoned. No milling or other processing of ore is known to have occurred at the site.
The site consists of a main mine site and camp area. The main site is located at a higher elevation approximately 0.5 kilometres north-northeast of the camp area, at the base of a steep bedrock face.
The main site includes:
- waste rock piles
- the adit
- approximately 70 metres of mine rails (tramway)
The former camp area is situated near the shores of Regina Bay in an area with scattered rock outcrops, and includes debris and waste present from the exploration activities.
In 1994, waste metal was cleaned up and access to the adit was restricted. Environmental and safety concerns remain at the site.
The Stark Lake Exploration Site Remediation Project goals include:
- using approaches that are cost-effective and risk-based
- restoring the land using industry best practices of:
- Traditional Knowledge
- working with Indigenous rights holders in all project stages to:
- build positive relationships and trust
- protect traditional lands and water
- planning for effective closure and monitoring, including community involvement in monitoring where warranted
Issues at the site
Concerns at the Stark Lake Exploration Site include:
- impacted soil (impacted areas with elevated metal concentrations)
- low level radioactive waste rock with elevated metal concentrations
- the partially open mine adit remains, which requires further closure to meet regulatory requirements.
- physical hazards left on site, including:
- combustible debris (wood)
- non-combustible debris (machine parts)
The Stark Lake Exploration Site Remediation Project actively engages Indigenous communities. The Stark Lake Remediation Project team's goals include optimizing economic development opportunities within the Akaitcho Region and promoting social and economic benefits for Akaitcho through capacity-building opportunities.
The Indigenous groups engaged on this project to date include:
- the Łutselk'e Dene First Nation
- the Denı́nu Kų́ę́ First Nation
- the Fort Resolution Métis Council
- the Northwest Territory Métis Nation
- the North Slave Métis Alliance
- the Yellowknives Dene First Nation
Project meetings and update letters will be the main communication method to inform rights holders and stakeholders about the project status.
In 2021-2022, CIRNAC re-started engagement strategies with Indigenous partners to foster new relationships and establish input and capacity opportunities as the project advances.
Work done to date
The Stark Lake project was identified as a priority project for implementation during Phase IV of the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan program. Assessment work required to define the remediation scope included:
- 2 day brush-cutting program to improve site access for future assessment and remediation activities
- Investigation Assessment Studies
- baseline gaps
- borrow sources
- Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment
- Archeological Overview Assessment
- Remedial Options Analysis
The Project team completed supplementary investigation in the 2021-2022 fiscal year to determine the extent of impacts and inform the revision of the Site-Specific Risk Assessment for Stark Lake. This work will support Canada's objectives of reducing liabilities while also responding to community concerns about the site.
The project completed a Site Wide Hazard Assessment for the site. This assessment identified all the hazards present at site. The project completed a gap analysis on the Stark Lake Phase III Environmental Site Assessment. The purpose of the analysis was to outline areas of focus in regards to assessment work before proceeding forward with future project activities.
The project completed a Traditional Knowledge mapping exercise.
The project conducted a Phase III Environmental Site Assessment. The project also completed a geophysical investigation to determine the vulnerability of the adit.
The project performed water, soil, and sediment sampling to understand the full risks of the current site. Sampling found high metal concentrations in some areas, however, the Stark Lake water body remained undisturbed.
The project conducted a Radiological Assessment to determine gamma radiation levels. Findings showed that the site was stable, as 56 days of continued exposure would be required to reach radiation levels of concern.
The project completed Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments and a preliminary Human Health Risk Assessment. The site was identified as a Class 2 (medium priority for Federal Contaminated Site Action Plan funding) site, with site hazards including:
- metal-impacted soil
- mine openings
- miscellaneous non-hazardous and hazardous material
The Project team will establish a remediation plan for the Stark Lake site in the 2022-2023 fiscal year after engaging with the communities regarding remedial options for the site.
Pending funding approvals in 2022-2023, the project team will proceed with:
- developing a Remedial Action Plan
- a Class 2 cost-estimate
- Remedial Workout session with impacted communities
- Archeological Impact Assessment
- a Design Basis Report
- specification development
- continued engagement with Indigenous stakeholders
Following that, a typical schedule for remediation would consist of:
- mobilization and Year 1 of remediation
- Year 2 of remediation if needed
- a Closure and Reclamation Report
- the development of a long-term monitoring plan
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