Alexco picks new site, faces old criticisms

Alexco Resource Corporation has abandoned its controversial plans to build a mill at Christal Lake, just outside Keno City. But its new mill location, to the west of town at the former Flame and Moth mine...

Alexco Resource Corporation has abandoned its controversial plans to build a mill at Christal Lake, just outside Keno City.

But its new mill location, to the west of town at the former Flame and Moth mine, appears no less controversial to a group of Keno residents who continue to oppose the project.

“In my mind it’s a dirty trick,” said Insa Schultenkotter.

She’s worried about how changes to the project, announced this week, leave little time for scrutiny before next Wednesday’s deadline for public submissions to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board.

The company only moved the mill to appease concerned residents, said Rob McIntyre, vice-president of Alexco.

Unlike the Christal Lake site, the new location would be out of sight from the highway, he said.

And noise should be dampened. It was feared that the rumbling of heavy machinery at Christal Lake would bounce off nearby hills and travel over the water back to town.

A hill sits between Keno and the new site. It’s about one kilometre west of town, which means it’s actually closer to town than the Christal Lake site.

“It’s just around the corner. Nothing really changed,” said Schultenkotter.

She’s part of a group of about 18 concerned residents who oppose the project. They stress they aren’t opposed to mining on principal—many spent much of their working lives in the industry.

But they worry that, after the territory has sunk millions into trying to turn Keno into a tourism destination, visitors will be driven away by dust and noisy machinery of a nearby mine.

The group would prefer to see the new mine built at the old Elsa mine site, about 13 kilometres from town.

But Alexco has balked at the idea of building the mine there for fear of being stuck with the bill of cleaning up historic contamination. They also fear that additional transportation costs could make the mine unprofitable.

The mine has its boosters. Mayo’s town council supports the project, as do some Keno residents. A petition in favour of the mine garnered about 50 signatures, including five belonging to Keno residents.

Alexco wants to build a mill to process ore from the existing Bellekeno underground silver mine. If the company has its way, construction would start this summer.

The mine is only expected to operate for five years, but Alexco hopes to stay in business in the area for several decades to come, thanks to a contract they’ve secured from the federal government to clean up neighbouring minesites.

The mine is expected to employ about 175 during construction, and about 130 people while in operation.

But first Alexco needs to obtain a licence to build the mine, which is far from guaranteed, given local opposition.

The new plan includes a bypass road, so that trucks hauling ore from mine to mill won’t need to drive through town. But Schultenkotter worries that trucks hauling silver concentrate will still need to cut through Keno.

She also fears waste tailings may be blown from the site to town. Not so, said McIntyre.

He stresses more than half of the tailings will be buried underground, including all pyrite, so that the waste left above ground won’t be acidic.

The remaining tailings will be compacted into a dry tailings stack, similar to what’s used as Minto mine, and capped annually.

Noise continues to be another concern, given the close proximity of the mill to town. Some fears have also been expressed that machinery will roar around at early hours of the morning. But work at the mill will be restricted between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., McIntyre said.

“We’re convinced it’s not going to be as bad as some people think it will be,” said McIntyre.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon RCMP are making an appeal for information in the case of Mary Ann Ollie, who was murdered in Ross River last year and whose case remains unsolved. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Guatto and program manager Andrei Samson outside the chamber office in downtown Whitehorse Feb. 23. (Stephanie Waddell, Yukon News)
When business models shift

Whitehorse chamber offers digital marketing workshop

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Submitted
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read