Faro council mulls fate of abandoned complex

The Yukon government wants to tear down one of Faro's largest and longest-standing abandoned buildings. The Chateau Jomini, a four-building complex once used as housing for miners, may be demolished this summer.

The Yukon government wants to tear down one of Faro’s largest and longest-standing abandoned buildings.

The Chateau Jomini, a four-building complex once used as housing for miners, may be demolished this summer.

But before that can happen, the government wants to ensure it has the support of Faro’s municipal council, which is still on the fence about what to do with the buildings.

In a letter to Faro mayor Jack Bowers on Dec. 11, Highways and Public Works Minister Scott Kent said the demolition is long overdue.

“These buildings are now long past any useful life and have become a potential safety hazard,” he wrote.

“I hope that it will come as positive news that Highways and Public Works has completed an assessment of the Chateau Jomini complex in preparation to remove all hazardous materials and demolish the buildings in the summer of 2016.”

The Cyprus Anvil Mining Company built the complex in the late 1970s after it had established operations at the nearby Faro Mine.

But the company was forced to suspend its operations indefinitely when world prices for metals plummeted in 1982.

The territorial government took over ownership of the buildings, as well as the parcel of land, in the late 1980s.

Since then, Chateau Jomini has been subject to much debate.

Located just across from the town’s visitor centre, the building was named after Harry Jomini, a civil engineer with the mining company.

Vandalism was once a problem so the building’s windows were covered with plywood.

In the early 1990s there were plans to convert the buildings into office space for Yukon College’s Faro campus, as well as for government employees, but a change in government prevented that from happening, Bowers said.

The idea of turning it into a corrections centre was also kicked around.

Today, some members of council still feel the buildings can be given a second life.

“It was fairly well constructed and we know the foundation is solid,” Bowers said.

“We want to be sure there are no other options, other than demolition, before we formally agree.”

There are a few concerns about what demolition would entail.

The town’s landfills – one for residential, one for construction – are nearing capacity. There might not be enough space to handle the demolition of the Chateau Jomini as well as other abandoned buildings in Faro, Bowers said.

“We wouldn’t want the demolition debris to go into the residential landfill either,” he added.

“But we don’t want to see it left undeveloped and unattended for several more years.”

Ian Dunlop, Faro’s chief administrative officer, said another hurdle for any alternative to demolition would be the cost to bring the building back to life.

Some members of council have expressed an interest in exploring the idea of using Chateau Jomini to house workers involved in the anticipated Faro Mine rehabilitation project, he added, instead of building a camp at the site. The Yukon government plans to build new containment dams at the site over the next few years but nothing has been confirmed, Dunlop said.

Bowers said he’s drafting a response to Kent this week.

Chateau Jomini is just one of many abandoned buildings in Faro, where the population has dropped from its peak of about 2,100 in 1982 to about 400 today.

Dunlop said there are approximately 37 properties, encompassing about 180 units, which have been left vacant by Faro Real Estate Ltd.

The town is slowly working towards gaining ownership of these buildings, he added.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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