Geoscience forum launches amid mining uncertainty

The Yukon Chamber of Mines will host its 41st annual Yukon Geoscience Forum and Trade Show this weekend and early next week. The event comes at the end of a tough few months for the territory's mining industry.

The Yukon Chamber of Mines will host its 41st annual Yukon Geoscience Forum and Trade Show this weekend and early next week. The event comes at the end of a tough few months for the territory’s mining industry.

Exploration spending for the 2013 field season is estimated at $45 million, well down from its 2011 peak of over $300 million. Mine development spending clocked in at $56 million, mainly as a result of the ongoing expansion at Capstone’s Minto mine. The Yukon’s two other producing hardrock mines have both seen setbacks: Bellekeno has shut down for the winter, while Wolverine mine cut 100 jobs this summer.

But according to Mines Minister Scott Kent, there is reason for optimism. “We’ve got a good strong mineral endowment and good exploration potential,” he said. He added that many exploration projects are still ongoing, albeit on a smaller scale than the territory saw a couple of years ago, and that there are a handful of strong possible mines in the development and permitting stages, including MacTung and Eagle Gold.

“I think that we’ve got a healthy mining sector along the continuum from early stage exploration programs right through to the producing mines. That’s something that I think is important and will help us weather this storm as we go through a few of the headwinds that we’re facing now.”

He also pointed out that the placer mining sector was one bright spot this year: More than 50,000 ounces of placer gold was mined in the territory this year, an amount worth roughly $56 million and a slight increase from 2012.

The territory’s miners, Kent said, are accustomed to the ups and downs of their industry. “They’re a hardy bunch, for sure, and they’re an optimistic bunch and they do have that intestinal fortitude to see through some of these down times and look forward to rebounds in the markets.”

He added that “regulatory certainty” would be key to the mining sector’s future growth, and his focus as minister would be on ironing out some regulatory issues in the coming months. That includes changes to the Quartz Mining Act as a result of a Yukon Court of Appeal decision regarding the government’s duty to consult with the Ross River Dena Council.

The geoscience forum begins on Saturday and continues until the end of day Wednesday. It includes a daily trade show, a range of technical talks, and several receptions. Sunday is Family Day, with free admission and interactive, educational activities on offer, including the chance to try out the Yukon College mining simulator.

Minister Kent and others will be on hand. “I’m going to take in as much of the forum as I possibly can,” he said. The event takes place at the Yukon Convention Centre and Coast High Country Inn.