Vice – water report special – “The Monster underground.” More than half of First Nations communities in Canada are affected by industrial pollution.
By Hillary Beaumont
Johanne Black wants to start a legend to tell future generations about the deadly arsenic in the soil and water in N’dilo, a Dene community of 200 people in the Northwest Territories.
She calls it: “The Monster Underground.”
When the Giant Gold Mine opened across Great Slave Lake in 1948, nobody warned the locals that the mine was using an especially deadly form of arsenic that dissolved easily in water. Not long after the mine opened, it emitted arsenic into the air and it settled into the snow that the children played in. English newspapers warned of contamination, but most Dene people couldn’t read these warnings.
People became sick, and according to oral evidence from elder Therese Sangris, in the spring of 1951 four children died. The details of the event are recounted in a report to the federal government, based on evidence given by local elders.
Today, arsenic levels in N’dilo’s soil are still high enough to cause long term health effects, and arsenic levels near the school and some homes are more than three times the maximum level allowed for industrial land use, according to a toxicology report obtained by VICE News through access to information.