REGINA - Saskatchewan's energy and resources minister is defending the government's work to clean up orphaned oil and gas well sites.

Orphaned wells are ones where the owner can't be located or is unable to pay the cleanup costs.

Tim McMillan says 17 such wells have already been cleaned up and another 17 should be done by spring.

Provincial auditor Bonnie Lysyk said this week that the ministry estimates potentially 700 wells and facilities could be orphaned and only 10 have been cleaned up.

She also noted that only one person is assigned to identify and verify orphaned wells.

McMillan says the 700 figure is based on many assumptions in the future and there are officially only 46 orphaned wells on the list.

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