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An aerial photo of the now shortened Salmita airstrip. Large capacity aircraft used to be able to land there, but are now unable to after the federal government dismantled 450 metres of runway for a nearby gold mine remediation project. (Seabridge Gold Inc.) The Salmita airstrip, approximately 250 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife near Courageous Lake, used to be a 1,500 metre runway suitable for landing large aircraft such as Boeing 737s or Hercules-class heavy transport aircraft.

Not anymore.

This summer the federal Department of and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) shortened the runway by about 457 metres.

Gary Vivian, president of the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines, is concerned the government did this without consulting any industries that might still use, or want to use, the runway. Gary Vivian, president of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, said the now shortened Salmita airstrip is an important piece of Northern infrastructure. (Claudiane Samson/RCI) Vivian said the airstrip is essential for mineral exploration companies, and he doesn’t "believe for a minute that INAC shouldn’t have been consulting industry."

The federal government is using material from the airstrip for the Tundra Remediation Project to contain arsenic and other contaminants left behind by a previous gold mine in the area.

A department spokesperson said they needed the rock at the end of the airstrip. The rock will be used as part of a contaminant system.

The department assessed other options, but it would have cost millions of dollars more to use material from a different site. The government’s job, the spokesperson said, is to complete the remediation project in a cost-effective manner.

Vivian said the government could have used other material around the airstrip instead."It’s easy access to material," he said.The department said no industry users are paying for access to the airstrip, and "we’re there to do […]

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