Bellekeno mine to shutter for winter

The mood at the Bellekeno mine this week is "heartbreaking," according to the president of Alexco Resource Corp. Clynt Nauman was on site Wednesday to announce a winter shutdown for the Keno silver mine.

The mood at the Bellekeno mine this week is “heartbreaking,” according to the president of Alexco Resource Corp.

Clynt Nauman was on site Wednesday to announce a winter shutdown for the Keno silver mine.

“It’s a very somber and sobering thing to have to do,” said Nauman. “I think it’s a prudent decision, however.”

The shutdown will result in layoffs for 72 Alexco employees and a similar number of people employed by subcontractors, he said.

Among the Alexco employees, 41 are Yukon residents, said Nauman.

Activity will be phased down beginning in September, and the mine should be shut completely some time in October, he said.

The move was in response to silver prices that have fallen sharply over the past several months.

The cost per ounce has fallen to under $20 U.S. this month, compared with around $32 U.S. six months ago.

The company plans to spend the winter looking at ways to save money on the underlying costs of production and preparing for a re-opening in spring 2014.

Alexco will also begin the environmental assessment for the Flame & Moth deposit.

“We’re not walking away from the property, obviously. There’s a tremendous asset there, and I’m just hoping that we can engineer and restructure all of these components and issues and get this thing back in production in 2014.”

However, if the economics don’t improve, the mine won’t start up again.

“If we’re not able to engineer our costs to be below the price of silver then if we went back into production it wouldn’t be sustainable,” said Nauman. “So it would be a bad decision, we wouldn’t do it.”

The shutdown will hit business owners in Keno, the tiny community less than a kilometre from the mill site.

The town has about 20 permanent residents.

“There has been a lot of talk about shutting down,” said Mike Mancini, owner of the Keno Snack Bar.

“The reality of it was definitely a bit of a shock.”

The town and his business have seen economic benefits from Alexco’s presence over the last few years, he said.

“They’ve been building up for a long time,” said Mancini.

In the longer term, the shutdown will mean slower growth for the community, he said.

But James Milley, who co-owns the Sourdough Cafe, is ambivalent about the shutdown.

He supports mining in the area, but thinks industrial activity needs to be kept away from the community, he said.

“Nobody wanted to see the mines not going into operation, we just didn’t want an industrial park in our townsite, and it didn’t need to be here.”

He first moved to Keno in 1974, when there was no mining activity, and has therefore never been dependent on mines, he said.

But with all the companies that have come and gone over the years, Alexco’s presence marks the first time that mining has overruled community interests so thoroughly, he said.

“This is, as far as I’m concerned, the most bizarre political decisions I’ve ever seen in my life being made here.

“The government is the one I hold fully to blame for this. They took no stance to even consider the people that lived here. They were too busy selling out to the mining industry.

“I’ve been here a long time – mining is always a flash in the pan. It’s considered gravy. When it’s here, you make a little extra money, but if you start breaking down the infrastructure and driving people away from the region that live here in the first place, you’re going backwards, you’re not moving forward.”

He wants the government to force industrial activity out of the townsite, or agree to buy out residents for their homes and businesses, he said.

The Sourdough Cafe has been on the market for less than the cost of renovations for a year with no takers, said Milley.

“It really upsets me knowing that every time I invest more money in my business that I’ll probably never ever see it again.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

World Cup season just around the corner for Yukon skiers

“I know I still really love to ski race and I feel like I haven’t reached my potential”

Whitehorse’s Nadia Moser named to biathlon World Cup team

“It’s pretty exciting to actually make the World Cup”

Ross River Dena Council appeal set to be heard

Appeal judges are looking at a 2017 Yukon Supreme Court decision on Canada’s duty to negotiate

Yukon NDP questions the cost of the health department’s medical review

$1.5 million appears to be going towards a steering committee and a “Tiger Team”

Yukon government helps fund 10 new affordable housing projects

The projects, supported by the housing initiatives fund, will build 123 new affordable units

EDITORIAL: Attention Whitehorse: shovel your sidewalks

For those who haven’t looked out a window this week, the snow… Continue reading

Youth boxers take home silver and gold medals

Alberta Sub-Novice Tournament, an introduction to competitive boxing, happened last weekend

Respite home offers a break to caregivers

Hillcrest home is a pilot project

Yukoners make a splash to mark the beginning of the swimming season

Nearly 120 swimmers took part in the Ryan Downing Memorial Swim Meet

Commentary: Lack of affordable housing in the Yukon is not about funds, but how we spend them

Why are we not building apartment complexes to serve the lower and lower-middle income bracket?

Driving with Jens: When should you plug your vehicle in?

You can probably still start your car without plugging it in at -25 C or colder, but you shouldn’t.

Yukonomist: Too far up the supply curve

Some copper mines come in and out of production as global demand for the metal surges and ebbs.

Most Read