Open letter to Health Minister Doug Graham and government official Robert Holmes:
Here is why I am skeptical about your current efforts to pat the residents of Keno City on the head and send them on their way.
The UKHM Closure Plan for Current Conditions Ã Review of Reclamation Cost Estimates (done by Robert J. Rodger, P. Eng, hired by DIAND, February 1997) on page 11, section 2.4.19, says:
“Onek: Issues identified by the closure report include high zinc and cadmium in mine water for the part of the year when the mine is free-draining (presumably spring and summer), and proximity to the town with concerns for groundwater contamination. The need for more groundwater work was also identified. Specifically, deep groundwater flow monitoring was not costed, but is required to quantify liabilities.”
The Department of Fisheries and Environment Canada water licence application review, 27 April, 1997 says, “The Onek adit drainage is one of the most toxic drainages recorded within the Yukon Ã‰
More than half the fish in the standard LC50 bioassay test died even when the adit water was diluted 600 to 1 with clean waterÃ‰
“Onek has one of the most toxic mine discharges reported to date in the Yukon with very high levels of dissolved cadmium and zinc.”
The date on these documents is 1997, for anyone who didn’t notice. Fifteen years later we are presented with a program to increase the frequency of monitoring of our community well. While this is reassuring to be sure, it hardly constitutes any form of protection for the residents of this community or indeed even our well.
Here is why I am skeptical of your efforts: The groundwater monitoring program, commissioned by the federal government and paid for by taxpayers, includes not a single well between the Onek mine and pit workings and the community of Keno City. A very strange way to establish the direction and effects of groundwater coming from these workings on the community of Keno City.
Here is why I am skeptical of your efforts on behalf of us: In the middle 1990s, when responsibility for care and maintenance of the Keno Hill mine district was taken over by governments, a program was immediately established to monitor and protect fish. This included monitoring wells and water treatment. This program did nothing to provide effective protection for the residents of the only community in that mining district from the Onek workings.
Here is why I am skeptical: In 2006 the regulatory process (Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board) and the Yukon government reviewed and approved, without the blink of an eye, the establishment of an acid-metal-leaching waste-rock storage facility located, you guessed it, in the Onek pit directly above town. This permit is still in effect. The main reason that this facility was not established, as attested to by a vice-president of Alexco Resource Corp. at a meeting with Keno City, was that haulage costs were too great.
I am skeptical of your efforts because although cadmium is indeed a naturally occurring substance, the concentrations in and around Keno City have very little to do with nature. To suggest that this is somehow a problem of nature is disingenuous at best.
Finally, I am skeptical because in all of this you or any representative of our various governments don’t even bother to come here and pat us on the head directly.