The $75.2 million in financial security put up by Minto Metals Corp. should be enough to cover the costs of protecting the environment at the now-inactive Minto mine site.
This is according to Stephen Mead, the assistant deputy minister of mineral resources, who presented alongside other representatives from the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources at a technical briefing on the Minto mine reclamation and closure work on Sept. 28.
The briefing covered the costs and progress of clean-up efforts, environmental concerns and the potential sale of the mine site.
Since operator Minto Metals Corp. abandoned the mine in mid-May, the government has used $7.87 million of the financial security amount, which is in the form of a surety bond.
“We’ve spent $7.87 million on all the work — that’s all the work combined. That’s people, infrastructure, retreatment operations, all the components you can imagine running and overseeing at an abandoned mine site,” Mead said.
He added that the Yukon government currently has contracts inked worth $20.72 million, which should cover “all and any of the work” that may need to be taken until the end of May 2024.
“We’ve got $75.2 million. Is it enough? I think we’ll have to revisit that question in six [or] 10 years’ time. I think we’re confident that that money will pay for all the work we need to do to protect the environment. Let’s be very, very blunt with that,” Mead said.
This echoes comments made by Energy, Mines and Resources Minister John Streicker to the News back in May, when he said the amount paid in securities would “easily” cover interim care and maintenance work.
“We are not using taxpayers’ dollars,” Streicker said at the time.
As part of the reclamation work, the underground portions of the mine site will be allowed to naturally flood in mid-November, according to a rough timeline discussed by Mead.
Additionally, those present at the technical briefing were told that the water table would be safe from contamination during the flooding of the underground workings.
“It’s important to note that while the underground is naturally flooding, no water will be coming out of the underground. Due to the level of the water table, the water will be maintained within the underground,” another representative from the Energy, Mines and Resources department said.
PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc., appointed as manager and receiver of all property, assets and undertakings of Minto Metals Corp., is actively trying to sell the mine.
“We do know that there are copper reserves in that area, we know that there’s still minerals in the ground […] We are participating in that sales process [because] PwC have recognized that ourselves and the Selkirk First Nation have particularly strong interests in the outcome,” Mead said.
“[This] really is a PricewaterhouseCoopers-led initiative. And they say to us that by the new year, they would hope to have determined a final decision as to whether or not there will be a new owner-operator of the site.”
Mead went on to note that if the mine is sold to a new operator, the reclamation and closure work will cease, and the site will transition back to a functional mine. If, however, no buyer appears, the reclamation work will continue.
If new owners take control of the Minto mine in the new year, they will likely have to drain tens or even hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of water if they plan to use the site’s existing underground workings.
“We predict that by the spring of next year, there could be 300,000 cubic meters of water [in the underground workings] — somewhere in that range,” Mead said, adding he was being vague because there are several factors that could impact how quickly the underground tunnels fill with water.
Any proceeds of a potential sale will be distributed to creditors to settle outstanding debts held by Minto Metals Corp. Previously, after the company was placed in receivership, roughly $1.77 million in owed royalties was paid to Selkirk First Nation.
Contact Matthew Bossons at firstname.lastname@example.org