Environmental Legacies and Remediation

Environmental Legacies, Resource Development, and Remediation in the Arctic

Project Leader: John Sandlos, Associate Professor in the Department of History at Memorial University of Newfoundland (jsandlos@mun.ca)

Research Team:
Arn Keeling, Professor in the Department of Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland (akeeling@mun.ca)
Anne Dance, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History at Memorial University of Newfoundland

Yellowknives Dene First Nation
Deninu Kue First Nation
Selkirk River First Nation
Ross River Dena Council
Alternatives North
Canadian Arctic Resources Committee

September 2014 to Autumn 2015

Project completed (2015)

Anne - Research Report



Anne Dance gave a presentation on remediation policies and frameworks at the 6th Annual ReSDA Workshop. A summary of her research can be found here.

Giant signPublications, presentations and additional information sources:

Websites with additional information:

  1. Toxic Legacies Project  section Understanding Mine Remediation
  2. Website of Anne Dance section on Research http://www.anne-dance.com/northern-reclamation.html


A research paper in the Northern Review, Northern Reclamation in Canada: Contemporary Policy and Practice for New and Legacy Mines by Anne Dance, is available here.

Abstract: This article discusses the factors shaping contemporary reclamation regimes in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, northern Labrador, and Nunavik in northern Quebec. It distills policy documents, laws, research reports, and newspaper articles for a clear overview of current policy and practice in the North and shows that no overarching vision informs reclamation planning. Instead of direction from Ottawa, responsibility for policy-making now largely sits with provincial, territorial, and regional governments along with local land and water boards. Efforts to mitigate the impacts of new and legacy mines are complicated by the highly site- and case- specific nature of reclamation; the lack of a clear, ambitious technical and regulatory definition of reclamation; and the jurisdictional overlap and governance issues associated with cleanup. Addressing these wider policy challenges in the North is crucial to meet the expansive, expensive demands of mine reclamation.

A poster/policy brief has been created by Anne Dance to serve as interactive tool to supplement this article. You can access more details by clicking on the items on the second page

Northern Mine reclamation policy

September 2014 to March 2015

During the first months of the project John Sandlos and Arn Keeling worked with Anne Dance to review current scholarship and methodologies related to northern Canadian communities and resource extraction. Anne identified secondary source literature and conducted background reading for primary source research.

Beginning in November 2014, Anne conducted research in Ottawa at the MiningWatch Resource Centre and the Library and Archives Canada on northern reclamation policy. She also met with representatives from industry, government, and the NGO community to gather information on the current state of abandoned and new mine reclamation policy in the north. Meeting with NWT MP Dennis Bevington was particularly useful for assessing the interchange between politics and policymaking in different Canadian jurisdictions.

There is a growing, rich literature in mine reclamation studies across the North. Many of these works explicitly recognize the limitations of historic and contemporary natural resource and policy frameworks as they were applied (or not applied) to that particular mining experience. What has been missing, however, is a closer look at how these experiences illustrate trans-jurisdictional challenges, and the failure of Canada’s jurisdictional regime to adequately address problems particular to the North.

The first phase of this postdoctoral research focused on aligning historical research on mines and reclamation with these uneven policy regimes affecting historic and new mine site reclamation. This phase culminated in the drafting an article for the Northern Review on current Canadian northern policymaking and practice. Accompanying the article is an interactive, accessible online “policy web” that will be updated as environmental and mining regimes change Yukon, the NWT, Nunavut, Nunatsiavut, and Nunavik. The paper was recently adapted to reflect feedback from scholars, practitioners, and ongoing devolution changes. In writing the article, the goal was to create a comprehensive and accessible resource for Northerners, communities, and other policymakers seeking to contextualize and address reclamation challenges from local, regional, national, and international perspectives.

Anticipated projects April 2015 to August 2015

The second phase of Anne’s work is ongoing. In March 2015, she conducted research at the Library and Archives Canada and BC Archives on northern mine remediation practices and programs. Dance also began licensed research at the Yukon Archives, the Environment Yukon Library, and the Yukon Energy, Mines & Resources Library on devolution and historical reclamation practices. She also met with over a dozen mining stakeholders during her visit to Whitehorse. Further research in Ottawa (May 2015) will follow, with a particular focus on the closure of the Northern Contaminated Sites Program (CSP) and Jericho Mine.

This second phase of research investigates how northern communities, groups, and organizations have shaped historical and contemporary programs and devolutionary arrangements relating to remediation and mine closure. The resultant paper and report will situate experiences in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunatsiavut, and Nunavik in a global context.

An article relating to this project will be submitted to the Northern Review Journal in April, 2015.
Dance, Anne. “Northern Reclamation in Canada: Contemporary Policy and Practices for New and Legacy Mines”.

Project Proposal Description


The industrial-scale development of non-renewable resources in the circumpolar North began early in the twentieth century, with major developments proceeding in minerals and (to a lesser extent) oil and gas throughout the twentieth century. Until recently in many cases, these developments proceeded with no environmental assessment, and many of these now-abandoned resource development sites present toxic and other environmental remediation challenges in the present day. Even more recent developments that have undergone environmental assessment arguably pay insufficient attention to the financial costs and remediation challenges associated with environmental legacies. From a community perspective, post-development remediation remains one of the most neglected stages of non-renewable development in the North.

Research Purpose

This sub-project will examine a broad range of historical and recent remediation projects in the circumpolar north. The goal is to assess the various roles of state regulators, industry, and communities in a broad range of remediation projects, assessing the costs and benefits of these post-development activities for northern communities. Using historical case studies, the project will ask what we can learn about:

• Community engagement in post-development remediation projects;
• Governance and oversight of these projects;
• Mitigation of environmental issues: air quality, containment, leakage, and landscape aesthetics;
• Engagement with indigenous peoples and TEK in remediation projects;
• The role of science and expert knowledge in remediation projects;
• Issues of historical memory, especially environmental injustices and landscape change at the community level;
• Financial security and the historical (and potential) public liabilities associated with remediation.


Our research will focus on publically available documents pertaining to individual remediation and monitoring programs for environmental legacy issues in northern Canada, such as AANDC’s Northern Contaminants Program and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP – an international working group of the Arctic Council). We will also conduct research on the online public registries (and in some cases the paper public registries) of the various regional water boards in the territorial North, and were appropriate, the archives of the NWT, Yukon and Nunavut. We will also investigate relevant provincial remediation programs through publically available reports. Preliminary research and information gathering has already proceeded with the drafting if the ReSDA gap analysis paper.

In order to ensure continuity and progress in the research, we plan to hire a postdoctoral researcher, who will lead and coordinate the work under the supervisions of CI Sandlos and CI Keeling. The postdoctoral researcher will be responsible for conducting the bulk of the documentary research, and will develop the research synthesis projects and key deliverables in partnership with CI Sandlos and CI Keeling. The postdoctoral researcher will have access to a wealth of knowledge and documentary evidence collected as part of the SSHRC funded “Abandoned Mines in Northern Canada,” and “Toxic Legacies” projects, in addition to work conducted for the ArcticNet funded “Adaptation, Industrial Development, and Arctic Communities.” The postdoctoral position will benefit from an outstanding training opportunity by playing a significant leadership role in the research process and outcomes.


Phase 1: Summer 2014: Networking with potential circumpolar contributors at ICASS in Prince George, B.C.; recruitment of postdoctoral researcher (a strong candidate has already been identified).

September 2014: Postdoctoral researcher begins work

September—December 2014: identification of key sites and issues; development of bibliography of key secondary sources; identification of research themes and gaps

January—April 2015: preliminary analysis and coding of case-related data for Atlas submission; travel to archives where necessary for print reports; preparation of “overview” article and open access report

Summer 2015: input and formatting of data for interactive Atlas entries; preparation of scholarly article on key Canadian case studies

Phase 2: 2014-15: identification of potential circumpolar contributors; networking/collaboration meeting(s); joint grant applications, where feasible/necessary

2015—: extension of Canadian case study model to circumpolar sites; preliminary analysis and coding of case-related data for Atlas submission; input and formatting of data for interactive Atlas entries; potential joint reporting and publication of comparative research results

Follow this project:

Anne Dance has a new website and will be posting updates related to her ReSDA research, including the Northern Remediation Policy poster: www.anne-dance.com/news. You can also follow her on Twitter @annedance2.

There is also a website for the project. Abandoned Mines Project: http://www.abandonedminesnc.com/ and a Twitter account @abandonedminesnc.

For more information contact:
John Sandlos
Associate Professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John’s, NL
A1C 5S7
Office: Arts 1022
Email: jsandlos@mun.ca
Arn Keeling
Professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John’s, NL
A1B 3X9
Office: SN-1041