The Yukon government says Alexco Resource Corporation is “non-compliant” with its water licence for the Brewery Creek gold mine near Dawson and has written the company demanding it step into line.
But Clynt Nauman, president of Alexco, says he hasn’t received the government’s letter, signed by Peter Zurachenko of water resources, and has only learned of it through the media.
“We don’t have the letter,” Nauman said, in an interview Tuesday.
“We’ll respond to the letter as soon as we get it.”
Brewery Creek is a former open pit heap-leach mine near Laurel Creek that used cyanide to extract gold.
It closed in 2002.
Vancouver-based Alexco is overseeing the mine’s reclamation and must comply with a litany of requirements for water-use licences at the site.
Zurachenko’s letter, dated July 7th, focuses on 11 points of missing water test information for the QZ96-007 water licence in Alexco’s 2005 annual report.
He requests Nauman “provide the above mentioned information, rationale for its absence and ensure future compliance with licence conditions.”
But while Nauman insists he hasn’t read Zurachenko’s letter, he feels the “good working relationship” between his company and the government will lead to a quick resolution of the issues.
And he thinks the term “non-compliance” is too harsh, he said.
Reporting requirements for Alexco’s water licence at the Brewery Creek mine are on a massive scale.
More than 14,000 separate data points are required, explained Nauman.
Small areas of concern typically arise and can be quickly dealt with, he said.
“What that letter points out is that there are half a dozen admin data points that weren’t reported in the annual report,” said Nauman.
“We put it together as carefully as we can. I don’t know if they (the failures in reporting) were dropped in transition, but I will certainly get the bottom it.”
Underlining his point, the issues Zurachenko raised are “reporting issues, not non-compliance issues,” said Nauman.
While the Yukon government lauds the happy relationship it has with Alexco, the company’s 2005 report doesn’t fulfill its requirements for water testing at the Brewery Creek site, said Kevin McDonnell, chief, water resources, with the Yukon’s Environment department.
“If the information isn’t being reported and we don’t have it, that means it’s deficient,” he said.
Alexco has time to respond and resolve its concerns, said McDonnell.
“We haven’t set a deadline on it; I would say in the next few weeks we’ll be talking with them and resolving it with them,” he said.
He couldn’t recall if Alexco has been in a non-compliance position in the past.
The stringent requirements for the water licences at the Brewery Creek mine are in place to protect surrounding waterways from potential cyanide and heavy metal contamination, said McDonnell.
“The concern is just to make sure the site is stable and what they’re doing is performing well, and that there’s nothing getting into the water that is of concern,” he said.
The so-called ‘cyanide process’ that was used at Brewery Creek is responsible for the worst environmental mining disaster ever in the United States.
In the 1990s, a cyanide process mine in Colorado spilled about 325,000 litres of contaminated water into nearby creeks.
About 27 kilometres of the Alamosa River was later found to be devoid of aquatic life in the aftermath.
Alexco won Indian and Northern Affairs’ Robert E. Leckie award for its reclamation efforts at Brewery Creek.
The company is also in charge of reclamation at Keno Hill.
“At the end of the day, (Brewery Creek’s) environmental performance is beyond expectations,” said Nauman.
“There isn’t anything serious we’re seeing from the samples,” added McDonnell in agreement.
But, “They have to do their reporting and it should be complete.”
Zurachenko was unavailable for comment.