The Yukon Supreme Court approved the sale of the Mount Nansen mine site, pictured, to a partnership of Alexco and JDS Group. The site is located approximately 60 kilometres west of Carmacks. (Submitted/Government of Canada)

Court approves the sale of contaminated Mount Nansen mine site

The sale to Alexco and JDS has been approved as long as certain conditions are met

Yukon Supreme Court has approved the sale of the contaminated Mount Nansen mine site near Carmacks to a partnership between Alexco and JDS Group.

The May 6 approval means work can get underway to prepare a water licence application for the site.

As Brad Thrall, president of Alexco Environmental, said in a May 7 interview, for the final sale to go through a number of conditions must be met and that will take some time.

The conditions include the water licence requirement for Alexco/JDS to take over care and maintenance of the site, and that has to happen before anything else can.

He expects it will be towards the end of the year by the time the water licence is approved.

The purchase price has not been made public.

Under the sale agreement, the federal government will oversee and pay for cleanup work to be done by Alexco/JDS over the course of about a decade. Alexco and JDS will then own the site and the claims associated with it.

“It fits perfectly with our business model,” Thrall said.

As he explained, the arrangement is similar to the work Alexco has done in the Keno Hill silver district in efforts to remediate older mining sites along with doing exploration work and moving towards production.

Thrall said it’s too early to say just yet what the future will hold for Mount Nansen after the reclamation work is done, but there’s no exploration plans for Mount Nansen at this point.

B.Y.G. Natural Resources, which eventually went bankrupt, abandoned the mine site near Carmacks in the late 1990s. The federal government took over responsibility for it in 2004 with a clean up plan approved by Yukon Supreme Court in 2016.

In a 2016 written decision approving the clean-up plan, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale did not mince words about the situation.

“It is an embarrassment to Canada, Yukon and the responsible mining community,” he wrote at the time.

Thrall said it would likely be three to four years to get through all the planning and regulatory approval processes before work will begin on Mount Nansen.

Included in the work outlined by the court is a dewatering of the mine pit before it is filled with waste rock, tailings and contaminated soil. The pit will then be sealed off with a permanent liner.

Thrall said the company is pleased with the agreement it has with the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, highlighting the important role members of the First Nation will play in the cleanup efforts.

“After almost three decades of concern and constant pressure and monitoring from Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation government, the citizens of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation will be pleased to see the finalization of the agreements that will lead to the remediation of the abandoned BYG mine site at Mt. Nansen,” said Chief Russell Blackjack in a statement.

“Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation’s Council, our development corporation and our senior staff have worked to ensure our future generations will be able to utilize this site once again for their traditional pursuits and values.”

Jeff Mackay, director of program management with the federal northern contaminated sites program, said there has been close collaboration between the federal, territorial and First Nation governments on the deal for the past couple of years.

The Yukon government will continue to act as the regulating body for environmental approvals and will be responsible for care and maintenance as Alexco/JDS continue to work towards meeting the sale conditions to then take over the site.

The current contract for the care of the site ends March 31, 2020, though there is a possibility of extending it if need be.

“The Government of Yukon is committed to the successful remediation of the abandoned Mount Nansen mine site,” Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai said in a press release. “We will work with the Government of Canada, the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, and Alexco/JDS Group on achieving a timely and responsible clean-up and on delivering economic opportunities to the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation and our local business community. As the regulator, we will ensure remediation activities recognize local needs, local interests and lead to local solutions.”

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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