Ranj Pillai, minister of energy, mines and resources, during a press conference in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020.Ranj Pillai, minister of energy, mines and resources, during a press conference in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. Pillai says the new guidelines for the quartz mining industry will help advance projects while also protecting freshwater resources. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Ranj Pillai, minister of energy, mines and resources, during a press conference in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020.Ranj Pillai, minister of energy, mines and resources, during a press conference in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. Pillai says the new guidelines for the quartz mining industry will help advance projects while also protecting freshwater resources. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Government releases guidelines for quartz mining water use

“It is important to all Yukoners to have healthy fresh water”

The Yukon government says newly released guidelines for the quartz mining industry will help protect fresh water resources.

In order to receive a water licence, all proponents who seek to conduct quartz mining must submit an adaptive management plan. The plan outlines “how they will manage water at their site” and must account for unforeseen events related to local resources and what the plan is to mitigate damage.

“It is important to all Yukoners to have healthy fresh water. We know industry can impact our water, and the development of these guidelines is very helpful to the environmental management of the quartz mining industry in Yukon,” said Environment Minister Pauline Frost in a statement.

Ranj Pillai, minister of energy, mines and resources, added that the mineral sector is an important part of Yukon’s economy and the new guidelines will help advance projects.

“We strive to ensure mining projects advance in a timely manner through a regulatory process that values high environmental standards and vigilant consideration of Yukon First Nations’ and Yukoners’ interests,” he said.

Ed Peart, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, said the organization is currently reviewing the document.

The Yukon Water Board has endorsed the new guide. Acho Dene Koe First Nation and Kluane First Nation are also listed as contributors to the document.

While the requirement has existed for a long time, the government noted that there was no Yukon-specific guidance provided to industry applicants. A new 60-page document now details information that companies must provide and steps that must be taken.

The document details the purpose of the plan and provides examples of what a plan should look like, and is a companion to the “Preferred practices for works affecting Yukon waters” that was released March 25, 2019.

The document is likely to become required reading for both quartz mining proponents and the members of the water board so they are better prepared to know what to look for.

Lewis Rifkind, mining analyst with the Yukon Conservation Society, said the guide is a good step and he’s looking forward to seeing how the management plans change now that the example exists.

Rifkind said most quartz mining operations are large and technical projects. It’s important an adaptive plan doesn’t mean “we’ll make it up as we go along.”

“The whole concept behind an AMP is, you know, a mining company comes in with the best of intentions, they’ve got this design all figured out, this is what they anticipate. It rarely works out that way. Not due to incompetence or negligence on anybody’s part. It’s just that mining is tricky,” he said.

“It’s really dry stuff. But it’s really important,” he said. “Until now, there’s not been a universal guidance of what should be included in these plans.”

The guidelines will be up for review in three years, according to the government.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

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