Alexco to expand Keno operations

The Yukon government has authorized two mines to open in the Keno Hill silver district. Alexco Resource Corp.

The Yukon government has authorized two mines to open in the Keno Hill silver district.

Alexco Resource Corp. plans to re-open two historic mines, Onek and Lucky Queen, to supplement ore currently being produced at its Bellekeno mine.

The territory announced this week an amendment to the company’s quartz mining licence, which will allow for the expansion.

The two new mine sites will not affect the company’s total allowable ore, waste rock or tailings, according to the proposal put forward to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

Instead, the company will spread their operations over the three sites. All of the ore will be processed at the current mill site, just outside of Keno City.

The company will install a new water-treatment facility at the Onek mine. A recent assessment has shown that discharge from that historic mine has had a negative affect on the groundwater, according to the proposal.

Production at the Bellekeno mine began in 2010. As part of the deal, Alexco is required to clean up some of the messes left by previous operators.

A health-impact study released last year found no immediate risk to the residents of Keno from the effects of historical mining in the area.

However, it also concluded that more data is required to rule out potential risk.

While the development has brought prosperity to some residents of Keno City, others say it has hurt their quality of life and potentially their health.

The tiny community has about 20 permanent residents.

Nine residents signed a petition in November calling on the government to provide financial assistance to move elsewhere.

The petition argued that residents and tourists alike were attracted to the area’s quiet and remote qualities, and that having industrial mining within a kilometre of town was hurting some businesses.

The government responded that mining was being done in a responsible manner, and no intervention was required.

As part of the revised quartz mining licence, the company must increase its financial security to $4.2 million within a month.

The company still must obtain a water licence before production can go ahead at the two new mines.

Water board hearings are scheduled for February 26-28 in Mayo.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com