Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for March 30, 2009

Sides differ on meaning of consultation

Alexco Resource CEO Clynt Nauman called it "constructive dialogue" with Keno City neighbours,

By Jason Unrau on March 30, 2009 at 5:15 pm


Photo by Whitehorse Star

Bob Wagner

Alexco Resource CEO Clynt Nauman called it “constructive dialogue” with Keno City neighbours, while members of the small Yukon community say Alexco’s proposal to build a processing plant less than a kilometre from their homes was made right under their noses.

“They gave us no indication of where it was to be located ... we became aware of the details for the first time in January (2009) and in my mind this is entirely too late,” said Keno residents’ spokesman Bob Wagner. “This does not constitute consultation in my mind (so) I don’t know what Mr. Nauman is referring to.”

But Nauman told the Star the company delayed submitting its proposal to the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board (YESAB) to keep Keno City in the loop of its plans to revive silver mining in the region.

“At the end of the day, we want to work with our neighbours and I think that we’ve projected that aspect from the beginning,” said Nauman, adding that YESAB would sort through “various concerns.”

“Certainly from our perspective, the location is designed to mitigate any environmental impact.”

While this mitigation includes operating the mill and processing plant only during certain hours, the proximity of the facility to Keno City and no guarantees the mill would not be used for future mines is what worries Wagner.

“In our opinion, it’s basically meaningless,” Wagner said. “Once they establish the mill there, who will make the argument they can’t use the mill for other projects? I can’t believe the government will tell Alexco it can’t use the mill.”

Wagner said the ideal site would be at the former United Keno town of Elsa, 11 kilometres from Keno City, where mining infrastructure already exists. While Alexco maintains there are safety and viability issues with that approach and its proposed mill is small (capable of processing 250 tons per day), Wagner believes the company is sacrificing the quality of life of the community’s 25 inhabitants for lower production costs.

“We understand Alexco’s right to mine here, we accept a certain amount of effects, it’s the nature of the area,” said Wagner, who moved to the region 36 years ago to work for United Keno Mine. “But we don’t think we should have to pay the price for this.”

Three years ago, the Vancouver-based Alexco bought the rights to access vast silver deposits in the Keno region in exchange for cleaning up former mine sites. Bellekeno, the name of Alexco’s proposed silver mine, is just one of a potential 35 sites that could be accessed in a 200 square kilometre area.

To date, Alexco has put $10 million towards cleanup and with federal funding the company plans to remediate the entire district.

Nauman said the company is looking at building a bypass road to its operations after Keno City residents’ expressed concern about traffic levels.

Last week, opposition MLAs took up Keno City’s cause in the legislative assembly, but to little avail.

“I think what has happened here is that the minister (of Energy, Mines and Resources) decided it wasn’t important to talk to the residents,” charged Liberal Environment critic Eric Fairclough, who is also MLA for Mayo-Tatchun, which includes Keno City. (He was wrongly called the resources critic in an article published Friday.)

“He thought: ‘Just a few people are there, it doesn’t matter what they think,’” Fairclough said.

But Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers rejected that analysis. He said YESAB must be allowed to evaluate Alexco’s proposal unhindered.

“We will not take the action (Fairclough) urges, which would be, for the government, very inappropriate to preempt the good work of this legally mandated body,” Cathers said.

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