Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for January 22, 2013

Tailings plan could see alert system created

The Yukon government would look at implementing a community alert system if Eagle Whitehorse proceeds with its plans to reclaim tailings at the old Whitehorse Copper Mine.

By Chuck Tobin on January 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm

The Yukon government would look at implementing a community alert system if Eagle Whitehorse proceeds with its plans to reclaim tailings at the old Whitehorse Copper Mine.

The company is proposing to remove approximately 1.8 million tonnes of magnetite or iron ore from 10 million tonnes of tailings left behind from 15 years of open pit and underground mining between 1967 and 1982.

Eagle Whitehorse was before the Yukon Water Board last week with its application for a 15-year, type A water licence. The two-day public hearing ended last Thursday afternoon, a day ahead of schedule.

Board member Rose Kushniruk asked officials with Environment Yukon, one of two interveners during the hearing, if they’d be willing to organize a community alert system to notify nearby residents if ground water quality became an issue.

A good portion of the hearing was spent reviewing existing water quality on site, and the potential for the project to increase levels of contamination by stirring up the tailings.

The company, however, insists its project would have minimal or no impact.

It intends to leave the mine site as it found it in about 12 years, following five or six years of production, a year of reclamation and several years of ongoing monitoring.

Kushniruk suggested a community alert system as a means of providing additional comfort for residents living near the mine site who rely on well water for drinking water.

“I would say the Yukon government would be amenable to some sort of approach to communicate with the community but we would have to work on the logistics,” Benton Foster, of the Yukon’s environmental health branch, told Kushniruk.

Of particular interest at the hearings was the downstream Canyon Crescent neighbourhood, situated some 570 metres from the mine site.

Eagle Whitehorse did agree during the hearings to add to the number of existing monitoring stations and wells.

The company would also establish at least two sumps to capture ground water leaving the mine site that can be pumped into the old open pit if contamination levels spike.

Almost all of the company’s water consumption would involve using the water in the open pit, recycling it and treating it.

Existing monitoring sites at the mine site and off site show varying degrees of contamination from uranium, arsenic, molybdenum and selenium.

One water well in the Whitehorse Copper residential subdivision shows a concentration of uranium at or above Canadian drinking water standards.

The well is separated geologically from the mine site, indicating a nature presence of uranium in the area.

Lewis Rifkind of the Yukon Conservation Society, one of the two interveners at the hearing, told the board it should consider the potential for a financial impact on area residents who may want to have their water wells tested more often.

Asked if Eagle Whitehorse would be interested in managing a neighbourhood well monitoring program, company owner Chuck Eaton said it would not be.

Getting into the business of monitoring private wells presents its own challenges, from simply arranging access to not having certainty over the security of the well site, he said.

Eaton told the board the level of monitoring Eagle Whitehorse intends to employ would provide area residents with plenty of advance notice should issues arise with water quality.

There was no opposition to the proposal at last week’s hearing.

There was, however, great emphasis on adequate monitoring of water quality to ensure water leaving the site is within acceptable standards.

Eaton said after the hearing if the company receives a licence early enough, he plans to be in production for at least some of this year.

Eagle Whitehorse, a subsidiary of California-based Eagle Industrial Metals, is planning to truck the magnetite to Skagway for shipment overseas.

The company estimates an annual contribution of $19 million into the local economy, including the 20 to 25 full-time jobs during the nine months of operation each year.

The Yukon government has already approved the project, following a positive recommendation from the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

The board did make several recommendations, including the implementation of a noise monitoring plan to address concerns raised by area residents.

CommentsAdd a comment

north_of_60

Jan 22, 2013 at 4:17 pm

What guarantee do we have that reclamation will be done once the valuable minerals have been removed?  Current mining regs require reclamation as part of the ongoing mine plan and it must be implemented concurrently with the mining operation.  Why aren’t those standards being applied here as they are at the Minto mine for example.

C’mon YCS do your job.

bobby bitman

Jan 22, 2013 at 5:48 pm

“(Eagle) intends to leave the mine site as it found it in about 12 years, following five or six years of production, a year of reclamation and several years of ongoing monitoring.”

Wasn’t the original idea that they would transform an ugly mining rubble pile into a lovely park?  I guess that is out the window.  Now it is six years of noise and muffin trucks, to get… the same rubble pile!  Great.

Well, at least there are the 20 to 25 jobs to be had.  Hopefully to be had by Yukoners.

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