YTG wants mines cleaned up as they go

Wednesday, the Yukon government released its new policy for closure and reclamation of quartz mining operations.

Wednesday, the Yukon government released its new policy for closure and reclamation of quartz mining operations.

Now, miners and mining companies are responsible for reclamation, care and maintenance of abandoned sites.

They’ll have to provide a reclamation plan up front, before development begins, and provide “security” over time to cover the full amount of outstanding mine reclamation and closure liability.

“Several major new mines are nearing development, and this new policy will provide an effective framework to guide these and other new mine developments in Yukon,” Energy, Mines and Resources minister Archie Lang said Wednesday.

“What this does is encourage constant reclamation,” said Lang.

“The company, as they proceed with their mining operation, will be reclaiming as they move along and we will be working with them to minimize exposure of both parties, the government and the mining company.”

Costs vary, so Lang wouldn’t speculate what it might cost to reclaim a mine.

The policy was two years in the making. It takes effect immediately.

It requires companies to update their reclamation plans periodically as their mines develop, at least every five years.

Mine owners must file annual reclamation and environmental monitoring reports.

And every two years, minimum, companies will have to update their financial security.

“The mining company is responsible for 100 per cent of the business plan of the reclamation,” said Lang.

“We accept that business plan; we look at that business plan and assess that business plan.

“If we need outside expertise because we’re not comfortable with that business plan, good business dictates that we hire that individual to oversee it.

“Every minesite will have those obligations.”

So if a mine starts leaching unforeseen toxins, like acid, and reclamation costs suddenly go up, the reclamation plan and security deposit will be adjusted.

“We’re going to have people on the ground on a daily basis,” said Lang.

“We’re going to be working internally in the government, but I imagine that as some of these bigger sites come on we’re going to have to hire independent people to review these plans too, because in lots of cases we’re not going to have the expertise on site to analyse these and make sure that the amounts that are in place are an appropriate amount of money.

“In saying that, there are lots of companies out there that do this.”

In crafting its policy, Yukon officials pinched ideas from other jurisdictions across Canada.

It was drafted in consultation with environmental groups and all First Nations, said mineral resources director Bob Holmes.

“Mine reclamation and closure should be an integral part of the mining life cycle, from beginning to end,” said Holmes.

“You can’t put a spade in the ground without knowing how you’re going to clean up the site when you’re finished,” he said, using Sherwood Copper Corporation’s Minto property near the North Klondike Highway as an example of an historic mine close to start-up.

“Right now, with Sherwood, all their licences are in place, and there’s a requirement in their licences to deposit another $350,000 upon starting of development.

“When that happens, we’re satisfied that we’ll have enough security to cover all the on-site liability.”

The Yukon Minerals Advisory Board endorsed the policy, saying it provides a “clear and consistent approach to mine closure” and “reflects the industry’s support of the modern practice of integrating mine closure and progressive reclamation into mine planning and operation,” according to a government release.

The policy still needs detailed technical and financial guidelines to identify specific reclamation standards and forms of acceptable financial security.

“It’s certainly not going to be a pick-up truck,” said Lang.

“We want to make sure we have enough money in the security that a third-party person could go in, under the government, and do the reclamation if the company defaults on the reclamation.

“Some form of security will be in place that we can turn to hard cash, hire a third-party interest and do the reclamation at that time.”

The minerals government is still working on policy details, and guidelines will be in place by April, said Lang.