Assessors approve Minto mine expansion

Capstone Mining Corporation's Minto copper mine could soon be seeing a whole lot more digging. The Yukon Socio-Economic Assessment Board has recommended the government approve three new open pits.

Capstone Mining Corporation’s Minto copper mine could soon be seeing a whole lot more digging.

The Yukon Socio-Economic Assessment Board has recommended the government approve three new open pits and two new underground mines at the site.

The company has been waiting since January for permits to expand to those new areas, when it halved its production and laid off 44 workers because it was running out of permitted ore to mine.

Now that it’s one step closer to getting those permits, company spokeswoman Cindy Burnett said that will hopefully mean bringing back the laid-off workers.

“We basically will run out of permitted open-pit ore by August. We need these permits in place to move on to the next deposit,” she said.

The layoffs were a way to keep the mine from shutting down entirely, Burnett explained. By moving to half its full production, the company was able to keep the mining operations running through the winter. If it kept going at full capacity, it would have run out of permitted ore much sooner, and would have had to shut down in the middle of the winter.

“That would have been really tough, especially with the heavy equipment. You’ve got to keep those big trucks turning over all winter or they freeze up,” she said.

The Yukon government and the Selkirk First Nation – on whose territory Minto sits – now have 30 days to review the decision and decide whether to grant the quartz mining and water permits needed for the expansion to go ahead.

The copper mine sits nearly 30 kilometres from the North Klondike Highway, down a dusty gravel road on the west side of the Yukon River near Pelly Crossing.

If the company doesn’t get the permits it needs before it runs out of mineable ore in August, the mining operations will shut down completely but the mill will continue to process stockpiled ore, she said.

Assuming it does, the company’s first target will be a deposit called Minto North, Burnett said.

“As soon as we get to Minto North, we’ll be back with a vengeance,” Burnett said.

It’s located on the northern edge of the property, and will be the company’s next open pit operation. There are currently two open pits on the site. When the southern pit is mined out sometime in August, it will be used to store water while the company shifts its sights to the north.

When the company cut production in January, it dropped from 10,900 cubic metres a day to 5,000. If the permits get approved, they’ll aim to jump up to 15,000 cubic metres and re-hire all the laid-off staff.

The focus will be on open-pit mining, Burnett said, because it’s cheaper to access than the underground deposits, and current copper prices aren’t high enough to justify running the mine’s mill with underground ore.

Right now copper prices are hovering around $3.07 per pound.

Minto didn’t turn a profit at all in 2013, but Burnett said that the deposit under Minto North should help them get back into the black, especially if the prices stay where they are.

“It’s 18 months worth of 2.25 per cent copper at around $3 per pound,” she said. That, plus the stockpile the company currently has, is enough to keep the mill running for the foreseeable future. Once Minto North is mined out, the company will move on to looking at its underground workings again, Burnett said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Then Old Crow MLA Darius Elias speak’s in the community centre in Old Crow in 2016. Elias died in Whitehorse on Feb. 17. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News file)
Condolences shared for former Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias

Elias is remembered as a proud parent, hockey fan and politican

Reita, Dudley and Rodney Morgan at their Whitehorse home in 2002. (P. Gowdie/Courtesy Yukon Hidden Histories Society)
Recognizing Black history in the Yukon

Yukon’s Hidden Histories Society is entering its twentieth year of researching Black… 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

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

(Submitted)
History Hunter: Kwanlin Dün — a book of history, hardship and hope

Dǎ Kwǎndur Ghày Ghàkwadîndur: Our Story in Our Words is published by… Continue reading

(File photo)
RCMP arrest Saskatchewan murder suspect

Yukon RCMP have arrested a man suspected of attempted murder from outside… Continue reading

A Faro volunteer fire department truck in 2008. In a virtual press conference on Feb. 15, Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, territorial Community Services Minister John Streicker and Faro Mayor Leonard Fabor announced the Town of Faro will have a new public works and fire hall building in 2022. (Genesee Keevil/Yukon News file)
Fire hall, public works building will be built in Faro

Wildstone Construction Ltd. awarded contract

Most Read