Minto: the little mine that could

When the Minto copper and gold mine near Pelly Crossing opened in 2007, it was expected to produce up to 1,600 tonnes of ore per day for about four or five years.

When the Minto copper and gold mine near Pelly Crossing opened in 2007, it was expected to produce up to 1,600 tonnes of ore per day for about four or five years.

Today, Capstone Mining Corp. expects the operation to generate an average of 3,850 tonnes of ore per day through 2022. And that only accounts for the resources it has already explored.

“There’s lots of potential at Minto,” said Ron Light, the mine’s general manager. “We didn’t do any exploration drilling in 2013 but we have a budget for 2014 and Minto has been very, very successful in their exploration efforts.”

To date, the site has only produced ore through open-pit mining. Later this year, however, underground operations will begin.

The reason for the move to underground mining is to access high-grade mineral reserves deep below the surface.

Between the resources close to the surface and the ones below there are layers of low-grade reserves. By tunnelling, the company can access the good stuff directly without having to dig through the mediocre stuff first.

The main tunnel is already about 350 metres long, and will reach about a kilometre before operations begin.

The company will also need to dig a vertical tunnel into the mine, designed both to allow fresh air in and provide a second escape route in case of an emergency underground.

The hole will be about 70 metres deep and will be fitted with ladders.

That should be completed by July or August, said Light.

Underground production is expected to begin shortly after that, and it will gradually replace ore mined from the open pit.

Sometime in 2014, underground production will equal open-pit production, said Light.

The mine’s open-pit operations are currently managed by contract with Pelly Construction Ltd. But that company is not equipped to run the underground work, so Capstone has contracted the development of the mine to Dumas Holdings Inc.

Once the underground mine moves from development to production, Capstone will staff and manage the operations.

That means that it needs to hire more people. The underground mine will generate at least 40 jobs, said Light.

The company has already begun staffing their management team, and will begin active recruitment for mining positions this month.

“Our main goal is to try and get people from the Yukon, or to get people who are willing to relocate to the Yukon,” said Light. “And our other primary goal is to train some of the Selkirk First Nations, or other First Nations, in the underground operations.”

The company is opening a Whitehorse office to help with recruiting.

Additionally, Capstone has partnered with Yukon College, Alexco Resource Corp., Yukon Zinc Corp. and the Yukon government on a training program designed to get more Yukoners employed in mines.

The Introduction to Mining Operations program is a 44-day course that offers students an orientation to both surface and underground mining, essential safety certifications and the opportunity to complete a two-week shift at one of Yukon’s producing mines.

Four students have just finished their placement at the Minto mine.

“They were telling our miners, contractors and our tradespeople how much they enjoyed the site, that they don’t think they’d mind working away from home, that they felt there was a good wage to be made, and that Minto was a very safe site,” said Light. “And one of the things we promote there is safety, so if the students notice it, it says a lot.”

And there will be jobs for the graduates, he said.

“We’ve already had emails asking if we can hire one of them, and I said, ‘Not until they complete the program,’ which I think is next week.”

Capstone is planning to hire labourers, underground truck drivers, loader operators and drillers for their underground work.

Some open-pit workers can convert to underground, but often specialized skills are required, said Light.

For example, the drill used in pits is different from the drill used underground. The underground drill is controlled electronically and requires a lot more technical expertise.

In addition to skills, it wouldn’t hurt to have a strong will.

“You need the fortitude to work underground,” said Light. “It’s a little unpleasant to some when they first go there.”

The company employs a liaison person to work with the Selkirk First Nation and promote local hiring.

In less than a year that Light has worked at the mine, the percentage of employees from the Selkirk First Nation has gone from about nine to about 15, he said.

“I’ve worked with other indigenous people throughout Nunavut and the Northwest Territories and I would say that this is probably the best relationship I’ve seen built between a company and a First Nation.”

The overall level of aboriginal employment is over 25 per cent, he said.

Fifty per cent of the workers are Yukoners, and 13 per cent are women.

And the jobs pay well, he said.

“We’re in the upper 75 percentile of northern remote mines as far as pay scale goes. That’s right down to the janitor and the labourers.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3-hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council will vote on the second reading of the Official Community Plan amendment on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Future area of Whistle Bend considered by council

Members set to vote on second reading for OCP change

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read