Reject Alexco proposal, move the Keno mill

Open letter to Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski, Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers and Community Services Minister Elaine Taylor:

Open letter to Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski, Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers and Community Services Minister Elaine Taylor:

As you are all well aware, the reactivation of the Keno Hill mining district by the Alexco group of companies in the Keno City area has not provided any real benefit to the local community, except for a small handful of area contractors, or anyone else in the district either.

Granted, Alexco’s arrival in the mining sector has increased the activity in the area substantially and has had a small trickle-down effect into the local economy, but the cost to this community far outweighs any temporary benefits that have come from this activity.

Your decision to support Alexco’s application to turn Keno City into its own personal industrial park has had a disastrous effect. The majority of this community did, and still does, support mining. The majority of residents of this community also opposed placing a mill and dry-stack tailings facility in our community and still does.

The industrialization of Keno City has turned what was once a small, quiet mountain village into a dusty, noisy mining camp. Alexco does not own Keno City, yet our entire community has been staked by it and has been surrounded by its activity.

This is not the only location where a mill and mine could have been placed. It was simply the cheapest way for Alexco to exploit our resources.

The past owner of this property had plans for the ore bodies that Alexco plans to mine here as well, but those plans would have seen property released in Keno to house its employees, and a new mill built at its mining camp at Elsa.

Those plans also included accessing the ore at the Onek mine site from a location up Lightning Creek, away from our community, to minimize the impact here.

Alexco considered this site as well but rejected it for cost reasons. I guess it would be cheaper to blow a hole just above downtown Keno City, where a mere extension cord could provide power and the Department of Highways maintains the roads to its doorstep.

As you are also well aware, Alexco is presently before YESAB proposing to add more to the impact it has already had here. Again, any consideration for the people who actually live here is of no concern.

As you should also be aware of by now, as revealed at the YESAB meeting held here in Keno City on April 25, serious health concerns were ignored by this government when permitting the mill. You now begin to realize that health issues may exist here and an outside authority will be looking into these concerns in mid-June.

The YESAB process still grinds on even though its decision will be made before the impact study even begins.

Why does the Yukon Party still continue getting environmental health information from a mining company and not wait for the results of an independent authority with no vested interest in the outcome?

It was also revealed at this meeting that “dry stack tailings” is a new technology and that this process has never been used in a residential area anywhere on Earth before – a fact Alexco forgot to mention to YESAB, the government or the community directly impacted by their “experiment.” It was also revealed by EMR representatives that they knew nothing about that fact.

Has it also slipped the minds of the honourable members that Alexco applied for, and they permitted, a temporary portable mill with a five-year life expectancy to prove out the Bellekeno mine ore body and not a permanent district-wide mill, yet members of YESAB and government were in attendance after the mill’s completion to celebrate the opening of the new “district-wide mill.”

Would the honourable members have been so quick to approve a project, with no baseline study and no consideration of the public health or the economic impact of that proposal, knowing that they were committing their own population to corporate experimentation without their knowledge or consent? The liabilities of knowingly making such a decision would be astounding.

I call on you to take responsibility for past decisions and deny any expansion of this project, beyond what Alexco actually applied for, which is a “temporary, portable mill.”

They should also disregard what is presently under study by YESAB until such time as a complete base-line study and health and economic impact studies are completed.

What has been presented by Alexco so far has amounted to few hard facts, much extrapolated and speculated information, and “desk-top studies.” All of these studies should have been completed before the mill was ever built, and based on real information, not on Alexco’s best guess.

Given what would have been regarded in any other sector, other than the mining industry, as “corporate misrepresentation,” is what has led to what’s happened here. This alone is enough to have this whole project returned to YESAB at the executive level to be re-examined.

Here is a thought. It would be far cheaper to move Alexco’s industrial park out of Keno City into an area where there will be no public health concerns. Playing Russian roulette with this company is not in anyone’s best interest other than Alexco’s bottom line. For some reason the gun is always pointed at our heads, no matter whose turn it is.

It is the Yukon Party that permitted this project without due diligence and it is the Yukon Party, which should be forced to pay to correct its mistake. It should pay for the removal of this threat by funding a “district-wide mill” in a new location, where the present and future threats to this community will be removed and the village of Keno City will benefit from this project.

We should not be forced to subsidize this company with our property values, quality of life (already stolen from us) and possibly our health, as well.

The Yukon Party has had plenty of time to come up with a policy that defines the line between the rights of mining corporations and the rights of communities.

And it is you, Brad Cathers, who will make and be responsible for the final decision. Please consider the impact your choice will have on the people who actually live here, the people who should be benefiting from this mining boom and not forced to subsidize it.

Jim Milley

Keno City