Environmental costs at a single northern mine are ballooning so high they are forcing Ottawa to rethink the cleanup of thousands of contaminated sites across the country.

Documents obtained by northern environmentalists show the government now expects to spend more than $900 million on the Giant Mine outside Yellowknife.

A quarter-million tonnes of arsenic sit underground at the mine just off Great Slave Lake.

The cost is about one-quarter the entire budget for a federal program that's supposed to cover the cleanup expenses for 6,700 toxic sites.

A federal spokesman says the Giant cost overruns are forcing the government to rethink which cleanups will be given priority.

The situation at the abandoned gold mine is so bad that emergency measures need to be taken before large amounts of arsenic start escaping from collapsing buildings.