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Guardians of Future Generations

The Precautionary Principle

Principles of Perpetual Care:  The Giant Mine, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (PDF)
Carolyn Raffensperger, Principal author
Rebecca Gasior Altman, Senior advisor
Nancy Myers, Editor
Rhiannon Chants Hanson, Sounding board
Joan Kuyek, Researcher and author of companion paper on case studies
Charlotte Babicki, Plain Language Executive Summary
Kevin O’Reilly, Reviewer
Prepared for Alternatives North for submission to the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, December 2011

What is the Problem?
How can you make wise choices about toxic sites? Here, we are talking about the long-term care of an abandoned gold mine (Giant Mine) near Yellowknife, NWT, Canada.

Giant Mine opened in 1948 and closed in 2004. It produced over 23,000 kg of gold. It also gave us a vast wasteland of arsenic trioxide. The mine contains 237,000 tonnes of arsenic dust that can melt in water. It has already poisoned lakes and creeks in the area.

How Long Does It Last?
Contamination lasts a long, long time. It could be toxic for 250,000 years or even more. How can you even imagine such a long time? The pyramids in Egypt were built only 5,000 years ago.

How Can We Plan for Such a Long Time?
We don’t know how to plan for 250,000 years. Instead, the aim of care at places  like Giant Mine should be to protect people, other living things, soil, and water for as long as we can. We must try to protect the Earth from any more harm.

How Does This Report Help?
The five rules in this report can help people who have to make decisions about long-term care. They should help us do our best to stop the creation of more sites that need care forever.

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