Whitehorse Daily Star

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CONCERNED ABOUT CASINO – About 50 turned out for a town hall meeting last night focused on the proposed tailings dam for the Casino open pit project. Seen here, is Yukon Conservation Society's mining analyst Lewis Rifkind.

Fifty turn out for meeting on controversial mine

More scrutiny of the proposed tailings dam for the Casino open pit project was the focus of last night’s town hall meeting hosted by Lewis Rifkind on behalf of the Yukon Conservation Society.

By Whitehorse Star on February 24, 2016

More scrutiny of the proposed tailings dam for the Casino open pit project was the focus of last night’s town hall meeting hosted by Lewis Rifkind on behalf of the Yukon Conservation Society.

Rifkind said this morning there were approximately 50 people in attendance. They included Archie Lang, who sits on the board of directors for the Western Copper and Gold Corp., the company advancing the Casino project.

Lang is also a former minister of Energy, Mines and Resources for the Yukon. There were also a couple of others from the pro-development camp in attendance.

Rifkind said the focus of the evening was the conservation society’s opposition to the dam and its concern over the huge, long-term environmentally liability it would present.

But those such as former mining contractor Jon Rudolph reminded the audience about the economic importance of mining to the territory and how projects like the Casino proposal could reduce the Yukon’s reliance on transfer payments from Ottawa, he pointed out.

Rifkind said there’s no doubt a project like Casino could change the Yukon, just as the Faro lead-zinc mine did.

The Faro mine, however, has left a legacy of environmental liability that is costing tens of millions of dollars a year, he said.

But if not for the Faro mine, there would be no Aishihik hydro facility that was built to power the mine and continues to provide the territory with much of the renewable energy it uses today, Rifkind acknowledged.

The society’s mining analyst said the tailings dam proposed by the Casino Mining Corp., on the other hand, presents a different kettle of fish altogether. The mine would be the largest in the territory’s history, with daily production 10 times more than Faro at its peak.

The required tailings dam is a show-stopper for the Casino project as far as the conservation society is concerned, he said.

Rifkind points out while it solves Casino’s problem of how to store toxic tailings and waste rock under a blanket of water 11 square kilometres in size, it creates a bigger environmental liability that will need caring for until the end of time.

As part of last night’s presentation, the society spokesman recalled recent and past failures of tailings dams, including B.C.’s Mount Polley disaster in 2014 and the 2010 failure in Hungary that flooded a local town with a sea of red iron ore tailings.

But he also referred to the 1975 failure of a tailings dam at the Faro mine.

“We have a history of tailings dams that fail,” Rifkind said today. “And we are talking about one of the largest ones in the world.”

The executive committee of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board announced last week it was elevating the Casino proposal up to a full panel screening – the first since the assessment act came into effect in 2005.

The proposed tailings facility was among the primary drivers behind the decision, the board announced.

The decision has raised the ire of some, including the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

Today, that organization criticized the move as another failure of the YESAB process that is creating more uncertainty for the industry in the Yukon (see commentary).

Rifkind said it’s best to proceed cautiously.

“Given that this is a big project, it is massive, it is good to take the time,” he said. “The ore is not going anywhere.”

Rifkind said the tailings dam and storage facility have raised all kinds of red flags, even with the Yukon government’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.

“Failure of the TMF (tailings management facility), even if the probability of failure is extremely low, would result in significant and potentially irreversible impacts to the environment,” the government wrote in its submission to the assessment board prior to the board’s announcement last week.

The proposed dam would stand 286 metres high, about 15 times the height of the law courts on Second Avenue.

It would span a distance of 2.5 kilometres.

Upon completion of the current mine life estimated at 22 years, the storage facility would hold 950 million tonnes of tailings and 650 million tonnes of waste rock, covered with a blanket of water.

The retention dam would be among the largest in the world, and would be designed to stand in perpetuity.

Water that drains from the mine site eventually flows into the Donjek, White and Yukon rivers.

The Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation raised concerns about the dam and the storage facility a couple of years ago when it retained an international engineering firm to conduct a preliminary assessment of the proposal.

The firm said there are numerous unknowns, and one of the major concerns was there was nothing similar in design to compare it to.

There was also concern about how the foundation of permafrost might be affected over the long-term by climate change.

In addition to the focus on the tailings dam, he did note for the audience that Casino’s proposals to power the mine with a on-site plant driven by liquefied natural gas will more than double the territory’s output of greenhouse gas emissions.

The access road which is currently routed through the heart of the Klaza caribou range was also noted as a primary concern, he said.

The assessment board also pointed to the impact on the Klaza herd as another primary driver behind the decision to elevate the screening to the panel level.

The panel review must compete its review within a 15-month window, which does not include the time it takes for the company to fulfill requests for information and answer questions.

The board incorrectly stated last week the 15-month clock began last week on the day of the announcement.

In fact, the clock does not start until the board receives a confirmation letter from federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, the minister responsible for the assessment legislation.

Comments (12)

Up 5 Down 16

john henry on Feb 29, 2016 at 8:56 am

jobs are great to have , mining can be great , BUT THIS MINE IS WRONG, IT WILL

Up 14 Down 0

NeilAlexGeddy on Feb 29, 2016 at 6:13 am


Chuck, you should try to get a trip to Minto Mine.

Not a single robot in the operations group at least 70% are Yukon operators.
You should have a look at the milling group, plenty of Yukoners working there, several in management positions.
Have a look at the Technical services group also, geologists, mine technicians, geotechnical engineers from the Yukon. Cruise on over to the environmental department and you will be shocked to find environmental cordinators from Yukon.

Dommo arigato Mr Roboto

Up 20 Down 40

chuck on Feb 27, 2016 at 12:31 pm

How many jobs make it worth it? 50? 100? What happens when all the high-paying HEO jobs that go to locals are replaced by autonomous machinery (such as the autonomous rock trucks that Suncor and others have been using in the oil sands). Western Copper has a duty to reduce its costs, and this will include lots of automation. It will be great for automation engineers and technicians such as myself, but unfortunately all the Yukoners who do not have 5-year engineering degrees will be left out in the cold, and instead will only contribute their tax dollars towards the reclamation. Although the reclamation is also great for work for engineers: at least when the government hires you to do something you know you'll get paid. Mines are a different story altogether...

Up 27 Down 5

NeilAlexGeddy on Feb 26, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Stirring up the eco-vigilantes with fear based sermons on the mount are we? Gotta burn that witch of a project down to the ground do you?
Let the fate of the project be guided and determined by process, not by a fearful mob enraged by the one sided opinions of Lewis Rifkind.

"Those who know what's best for us , must rise and save us from ourselves." - Witch Hunt

Up 42 Down 73

jonesboy on Feb 25, 2016 at 8:03 pm

It's wrong to say that people are anti any development. They are anti Eco destruction on a massive scale. Resource exploitation is not the only development option. There is a very big problem of uninformed electorate whose scientific view belongs in the 19th century. Under informed, opinionated, narrow minded members of the general electorate is a huge development problem.

Up 90 Down 114

Really on Feb 25, 2016 at 11:32 am

Many in the mining industry will say anything and do almost anything to discredit any measure of review and scrutiny of their operations. YESAB was created specifically for projects the scale that CASINO proposes. There should be no surprise for the proponents or their advocates that YESAB will conduct such a review. Really people, even in the old days the EARP Guidelines Policy of the federal government would have required a detailed review of this project due to its size. Development at any costs only develops legacy problems for the future, some of which, may be very detrimental to human health and safety.

Up 66 Down 98

Says a lot on Feb 25, 2016 at 10:24 am

Glad to see Archie Lang there. The man who directed $750,000 to the Mountain View Golf course in a fake 'purchase' of land which the government already owned. Then he put the tab onto the lot purchasers at Whistle Bend. Nice touch!

This is the kind of person Western Copper and Gold wants on their board of directors. A guy who knows how to 'get things done'.

Up 115 Down 96

Look at all those on Feb 25, 2016 at 9:22 am

NDP's voters who have jobs and don't care about other people getting jobs. If you notice all the people against development have jobs and are protesting against creating jobs. Yukon and Canada is in rough shape if you don't know and needs every job it can create.
People are sick of these bleeding heart wrong doers.

Up 17 Down 34

Wundering on Feb 25, 2016 at 5:51 am

Think of the future jobs this project wii create in the clean up and reclamation of the site after the mine goes bankrupt, and like Faro these jobs go on forever.

Up 109 Down 71

jc on Feb 24, 2016 at 9:56 pm

Rifkin: you environuts will never be happy, even in a perfect world. As long as Sierra Club pays your wages, you don't care if other Yukoners get good paying jobs. Since the immigrants have taken over 90% of the low paying jobs, many young Yukoners have to leave the Yukon to find decent jobs. They have to leave and nuts like you come up and continually try to shut us down. I hope Casino opens and brings in a lot of good high paying jobs for our young. Then maybe you and you're crew can go to China and try to shut it down. Got the b@!!& for that?

Up 62 Down 54

Jonathan Colby on Feb 24, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Sorry, but when I see the words "in perpetuity" about a man-made structure to hold back a lake of toxic cocktail, I immediately say no. In perpetuity, ha. Same as the arsenic problem in the NWT mines, we would just be prescribing a horrible disaster for the people of the future, and for what? 20-ish years of minerals?

Big 'ol bag of nope!

Up 115 Down 95

Great project and on Feb 24, 2016 at 3:35 pm

we are not back in the 1960's when there was no protection of the environment but some people are just don't get it and are anti any development.

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