After 11 years in production, the Minto Mine is shutting down, the parent company announced this morning.
Capstone Mining president Darren Pylot said early today the mine will be moving into care and maintenance mode to preserve and maximize its value.
“The team will ensure Minto can be restarted efficiently and safely once the copper and equity markets improve,” Pylot said in a statement.
There are currently 200 employees and contractors at the site. It’s expected there will be 12 workers once the transition to care and maintenance is complete by January 2019.
Capstone vice-president Cindy Burnett told the Star late this morning 24 of 119 Capstone employees were laid off today.
Burnett explained the arrangement announced last February to sell the mine for $37.5 million to Pembridge Resources, a British company, has fallen through.
That has happened because Pembridge has not been able to raise the financing to close the deal.
“Pembridge is still very much interested,” Burnett said. “If the copper markets turn around and they are able to raise the money, they are very much interested.”
Burnett said Capstone was at the point where it had to make a decision about going forward.
There is still value in the ground, she pointed out. By moving into care and maintenance, that value is preserved until market conditions improve, she emphasized.
The company noted in its press release discussions with Pembridge and other potential buyers will continue.
She said the underground mining crew under contract will gradually be reduced as the weeks go by. Blasting has ended, but the ore that remains underground will still be mucked out and brought to the surface for milling, Burnett said.
She estimated milling of the underground ore and what’s left of the stockpile of ore on surface will take about two weeks.
Burnett said the size of staff maintained by the kitchen contractor will also be reduced gradually, as numbers in camp diminish.
The care and maintenance crew will continue to fulfill the responsibilities associated with the water treatment and ongoing environmental and air monitoring, she said.
The Minto Mine has been a mainstay in the Yukon’s economy since it went into production in 2007.
In recent years, its future has been somewhat uncertain, but last year, Capstone announced mining at Minto would continue into 2022.
Earlier this year, however, the company decided it would not, after all, be pursuing the next open pit target.
The bulk of the surface mining crew and heavy equipment operators provided by Pelly Construction Ltd. of Whitehorse finished up at the mine in the spring.