Minto wastewater despair

Minto wastewater despair Re Minto mine ordered by YTG to seek a licence to discharge waste water into Yukon River at a faster pace: "Capstone Resources is committed to practising responsible environmental stewardship, that is in alignment with all applic

Re Minto mine ordered by YTG to seek a licence to discharge waste water into Yukon River at a faster pace:

“Capstone Resources is committed to practising responsible environmental stewardship, that is in alignment with all applicable standards and regulations, as well as our own environmental policies. To the extent possible, Capstone will continue to minimize the impact of our operations on the natural environment during all stages of project development É Capstone Resources is a TSX-listed company focused on growing production from it’s high-grade, low-cost mines located in mining-friendly jurisdictions É We also operate in stable mining-friendly jurisdictions at a time when many other mines face daunting geopolitical and regulatory risk.” Quoted from Capstone Resource’s 2008 Annual Report.

Welcome to social and environmentally responsible mining in the 21st century.

If Stephen Quin, the president of Capstone, can look in the mirror and repeat what he is telling us about the discharge of wastewater into the Yukon River Watershed, and believe it, then I guess it must be true. Same goes for Robert Holmes, director of mineral resources branch for Energy, Mines and Resources.

For anyone interested in reading what Capstone is saying about production in the latter half of 2009, there is plenty online. Interestingly, there is nothing about an “emergency.” Capstone’s entries are all about regaining its profit margin.

Since when did these mining companies become the “valued clients” of YTG? While responsible mining could be an asset to the Yukon economy, we have numerous examples around us of what irresponsible mining can lead to. I can still remember the exchanges between government and United Keno Hill Mines in the 1980s about water-quality compliance issues. Every time the arguments heated up, the company threatened to shut down. Government always backed down. Now we, the taxpayers, are left with an estimated $65,000,000 clean-up.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have that share of my taxes sitting in my pocket rather than in the hands of bureaucrats and consultants. Why is it so hard for governments to do the job they were put here for Ð represent us and the long-term interests of Yukon, as opposed to short-term, special interests? What Yukon taxpayers have to keep in mind is: mining companies come and go, but cleanups are forever.

There is a disturbing other issue in this affair Ð our government ordering a mining company to seek permission to dump more wastewater into the Yukon River than our water board allowed them Ð and that is lack of transparency. It seems there is ongoing EMR interference in the release of the water inspection reports, for the public record. If this is true, then we have a case of our government actively seeking to cover up an important environmental issue. It seems they have learned nothing from the ATCO affair and continue on as before.

I wonder which Holmes holds in higher regard, the environmental integrity and reputation of the Yukon River Watershed, or the profit margin of Capstone Resources for 2009. I wonder which is held in higher regard by the average Yukoner, whom he is supposed to work for.

And where is our elected government on this issue? They gladly let the bureaucrats do the “dirty work” and stay in the background, without a peep to be heard. Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t we have a Department of Environment that comes with its very own minister? If this department’s staff cannot or will not stand up to EMR then how do they justify collecting their salaries?

It was my understanding that YESAB and water boards and governments were created to help prevent these very situations, not make them worse. And, while not perfect, they were suppose to learn from their mistakes. Why do we have an “emergency” situation playing out over several years, and the only response from these various organizations is “sacrifice the environment or lower the environmental standards?” Whatever happened to the idea of making the mining company live up to its environmental commitments?

And what about Capstone Resources, and other mining companies operating in this territory? Do they have nothing to say? Is it technically beyond them to offer and implement environmentally sound solutions to a problem of wastewater storage capacity? It’s a large hole with water in it, for crying out loud! Or is maximum profit the only thing that truly inspires them? If our only response to an “environmental emergency” is “take the easy way out” then we are in trouble.

Bob Wagner

Keno City