Blog Entry

Abandoned Mines in the Yukon - Background

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

There are seven really significant "Type II" abandoned mine sites in the Yukon. Some of them are mired in ownership questions which have to be resolved before the final decommissioning can take place. The seven are: United Keno Hill, Clinton Creek, Mt. Nansen, Faro, Ketza, Sa Dena Hess and Brewery Creek.

With the exception of Brewery Creek, these sites had inadequate reclamation bonds and cleanup will depend on the federal government Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan (FCSAP). The Brewery Creek Mine is in the process of decommissioning, and the Yukon government has already returned a portion of their reclamation bond. Three of these mines are:

United Keno Hill. This silver property with over nine different mines came under the management of the Yukon government when its most recent owner - United Keno Hill Mines - went bankrupt. The mine had operated from 1921-1982. When the price of silver plummeted world wide, the mine then operated sporadically with many different owners, and stock plays. It is for sale by the court-appointed receiver. The federal government has severed the environmental liability from the site, although any new owners would be required to manage it.

Clinton Creek Mine. The Clinton Creek asbestos mine was operated by the Cassiar Asbestos Corporation Limited from October 1967 until August of 1978. The mine has three open pits, located on the south side of Clinton Creek. There are 60 million tonnes of waste rock which have blocked Clinton Creek and formed Hudgeon Lake. During its short life, the mill discharged 10 million tonnes of tailings to the Wolverine Creek valley. The tailings dumps have since failed and formed two lobes, blocking the flow of Wolverine Creek. The creeks have eroded both the tailings piles and waste rock, and the fish habitat of upper Clinton Creek and Wolverine Creek were destroyed. The federal FCSAP has paid for gabion (mesh cage) beds to stabilize the waste rock piles and allow water flows to resume in the creek. It will costs $17-35 million to properly reclaim.

Mt. Nansen/BYG Mine. Hugely promoted by the mining industry when it opened in 1996, this gold mine closed in 1997 because it was unable to meet the terms of its water licence. A Territorial Court judge later found that the actions of the company "demonstrate and attitude consistent with the raping and pillaging of resources in the Yukon." Arsenic, cyanide, lead and other toxins were contaminating Dome Creek. It costs the federal government almost $2 million a year to maintain the site, and plans are now underway to spend the $7 million it will cost to actually reclaim it. The company is in bankruptcy proceedings. The mine is on the land of the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation.