Is Keno cursed?

Is Keno cursed? An open letter to any Yukoners that still care about this territory and the welfare of the residents who call it home: Just a brief update on the situation with Keno City and Alexco Resource Ltd. Now that the Bellekeno Mine Project has be

An open letter to any Yukoners that still care about this territory and the welfare of the residents who call it home:

Just a brief update on the situation with Keno City and Alexco Resource Ltd. Now that the Bellekeno Mine Project has been permitted by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, we are getting our first glimpse at what this project will mean for us.

Recently, several Keno City residents accompanied Alexco representatives to view the proposed routing for the Keno City bypass road. This was a major mitigation endorsed by YESAB. During the course of this walk, the Alexco representative informed the Keno City residents that the section of the bypass actually going around the town would probably not be built until sometime in 2010, and that this would most likely necessitate driving ore trucks directly through town when the mining project begins.

Later that night, at a meeting with the community concerning communication, this information was presented with the subsequent strong and understandably negative reaction by members of the community present. After much discussion Alexco would only agree to build the bypass section “as soon as possible” in 2010.

During the course of this discussion the Alexco representative expressed the opinion that when the United Keno Hill Mine was in operation before, ore trucks used to travel through town and therefore there should be no problem with it.

This, of course, would be an accurate assessment if this was 1980. Unfortunately, it is 2009 and the opinion of what to expect from a mining company has changed. Only the Mayo YESAA assessor and Alexco feel that history overrides any consideration about the present.

While these mining companies are constantly professing their modern sensibilities, behind this thin veneer is the same old crap. (Witness the rush to dump waste water into the Yukon River Ð Minto mine’s Capstone Resources; Western Copper’s desire to put a heap leach in this same watershed with some question as to whether it can ever be detoxified; Alexco’s new “problem” with the bypass road.)

A small digression into the Minto mine story: If Capstone Resources knew that it would have to release water into the Yukon River next spring, due to the inadequacy of their treatment pond, why couldn’t they use the intervening timeframe to actually fix the problem? Could it be that they would have to spend money?

The community of Keno City also expressed concern during the environmental assessment about basing this review on projects that haven’t been built (the Pelly-Stewart Crossing Transmission Line connection and Mayo B). Now we are finding out that our fears about generator use near our town were well founded, despite the opinion to the contrary of Alexco and the YESAA assessor in Mayo.

It seems the construction of this mill project will be largely done with generators and there is the very real possibility that generators will have to be used to power parts of the mining project. What this means for our community is more noise 24/7, surprise, surprise. Of course, “Due to our history we should have known better,” (YESAA assessor, Mayo).

Finally we are learning how little the recommendations of YESAB actually mean in reality. Several studies were requested of Alexco “before” this project was to begin (noise and groundwater, to name two important ones). Well, the project has begun Ð preliminary groundwork is done and the cement pad for the mill is about to be poured, and still no studies. Maybe our definition of project start and Alexco’s are different.

This brings us to a point which I haven’t heard discussed by Yukoners, yet. Since devolution, the approximately 14,000 Yukon taxpayers are on the hook for any environmental bonding mistakes or miscalculations made by our government that exceed bonding requirements imposed by YTG on new mines in the territory. A study of these bonding requirements is being carried out by Energy, Mines and Resources, as we speak. Is anyone surprised that no one has heard anything about this study? This, from the department that worked tirelessly to conceal the Atco talks for seven months.

What makes me nervous, is that even moderate environmental damage by one of these new mines could result in a tax burden of millions of dollars over an extended number of years, all on the backs of a tax base smaller than most municipalities down south.

The answer, of course, is a “gold-plated,” transparent and neutral environmental assessment process followed up with rigorous and transparent enforcement of environmental regulations by our government.

Who here sees a problem with the way our current system of “develop-it-at-any-cost” works? We have an assessment process that was quite willing to sacrifice the welfare of a community for the temporary profit margin of a small Vancouver-based junior mining company.

We have an assessment process that was willing to accept the direct deposit of mine tailings on the ground with no barrier in between. We have a government disconnected from its citizens and determined to impose its own “in-house” solutions to our problems on the very people it is supposed to represent. All the while, it’s actively seeking to conceal its intentions from these very same citizens.

One brief note to the YESAA assessor in Mayo, who estimated that placing a large industrial complex close to a community that had no history of one before, would have no significant effect on that community’s present tourist-based economy. We have done an informal survey of our tourist visitors this summer and the first response when made aware of Keno’s situation as regards the mill location is, “Why do they want to put it so close to your community?”

And the second response, which comes almost in the same breath is, “If this mill goes ahead as planned, I won’t be coming back to Keno.”

Whether by design, incompetence, or honest mistake, your assessment was, apparently, wrong.

My question is: How many wrong assessments are we going to be able to afford in the future?

Bob Wagner

Keno City

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

Just Posted

Mayo-Tatchun MLA Don Hutton sits on the opposition side of the legislative assembly on March 8 after announcing his resignation from the Liberal party earlier that day. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Don Hutton resigns from Liberal caucus; endorses NDP leadership

Hutton said his concerns about alcohol abuse and addictions have gone unaddressed

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read