How are Indigenous and non-Indigenous community objectives for remediation being addressed?
Across North America, extractive industries have left extensive legacies of environmental damage, including polluted water ways, contaminated soils, and dramatic landscape change. This has resulted in a proliferation of research on waste containment techniques, engineering of tailings covers, and remediation of contaminated soils. Typically, remediation and waste management activities are dominated by technical experts and consultants. Conversely, community objectives and definitions of what it means to ‘clean-up’ a contaminated site are rarely discussed and little is known about the political, cultural and justice dimensions of remediation.
A technical approach to remediation largely ignores Indigenous and non-Indigenous community concerns about perpetual care, future-land use, reconciliation and justice. Therefore, my research will theorize what it means to ‘heal’ a contaminated mine site and to live with, and use that space for generations to come. I will question how technical remediation plans define—and confine—concerns around the local realities of managing and caring for contaminated sites.
To do this I will examine the Cyprus Anvil Mine in Faro, Yukon. The Cyprus Anvil Mine, which was abandoned in 1998, is one of the largest contaminated sites in Canada with complex environmental risks associated with the tailings ponds. However, there is little research on the history or community experiences of this mine. Almost twenty years later, a long-term remediation plan has yet to be finalized. As the acid rock contamination onsite worsens daily, community consultation between government and Indigenous communities is only now re-starting.
Building on the above theoretical questions, I will ask:
- In the eyes of local community members, what are the historical legacies of the Cyprus Anvil Mine?
- How has remediation been defined and planned for at Faro?
- How can remediation projects such as Faro be planned within a framework of reconciliation with Indigenous communities?
- How are Indigenous and non-Indigenous community objectives for remediation being addressed?
I will evaluate the multi-faceted, cumulative effects of mining and remediation on local communities, with the ultimate goal of identifying best practices for mine development, remediation and perpetual care of contaminated sites within a theoretical and ethical framework of environmental justice and reconciliation.
Caitlynn Beckett is a PhD Candidate in Geography at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, where she also recently finished a MA. She attended the University of Saskatchewan for her Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies. Her research focuses on environmental remediation, the cumulative effects of extractive industries and environmental justice for Indigenous communities in Northern Canada. Her research pushes beyond the technicalities of remediation science in order to investigate broader issues of ethics, justice, and perpetual care within a framework that is accountable and relational to community concerns. Follow her on twitter @CaitlynnBeckett