Mining is a messy business; there is no way around this fact.
Any time the land is shoveled aside so mechanical equipment can dig a pit into the ground to extract lumps of ore, there are environmental consequences.
In the past this has caused ecological disasters such as the pits at Faro.
Not only will water leachate from this project require treatment in perpetuity, it will also require millions of dollars, taxpayer dollars, every year for this treatment. And this expense will be borne every year, possibly forever.
Today, mining proponents tend to spout the corporate line that modern mining methods are much better than what was practised in the past.
The environment will supposedly be taken care of due to better applications of technology, improved communications with local governments and greater emphasis on corporate governance.
One hates to burst this bubble, but recent mining applications seem to fly in the face of these arguments.
The proposed Carmacks Copper mine will be using a sulphuric acid heap leaching process, an unproven technology in the northern environment.
The company is pushing ahead with the project despite local objections.
It would be wise to first do a field scale trial to prove sulphuric acid heap leaching does actually work.
Instead, the entire mine is going ahead as a huge experiment.
Carmacks Copper will be right next to streams that are crucial for salmon spawning. Acid and salmon do not go together well, should there be an accidental discharge or leak.
Just because a technology is different does not mean it is better, nor that it will have less impact on the environment than past mining projects that promised innovative means to extract minerals and protect the land.
The proposed Bellekeno mine is running into opposition from local residents of Keno City, not so much over the mine itself but due to the location of tailings piles and crushing operations.
The mine proponents’ refusal to listen to the needs of local residents has led to anger and frustration, and if the mine goes ahead as planned, tourism and quality of life will be impacted by noise, dust and heavy truck traffic.
Current society requires mining.
But let us not try and kid ourselves that current mining practices are environmentally friendly, or even much better than the ones practised in the past.
Mining harms the environment and has huge impacts on local communities.
Mining companies, and their proponents within government, push every mine project in the Yukon forward and pay just lip service to local community concerns and environmental impacts.
It is time for this to change.
The resources extracted from mines can be useful to society, but that does not justify mining all places and at any cost.
Mines anyhow and everywhere is not good for communities, not good for the environment and is certainly not good for the taxpayer when it comes time to clean up the mess the mines make.
Lewis Rifkind, mining co-ordinator, Yukon Conservation Society