Keno decision in board’s hands, says Cathers

The Yukon government won't meddle with a controversial proposal to build a mine near Keno City, says Brad Cathers, minister of energy, mines and resources.

The Yukon government won’t meddle with a controversial proposal to build a mine near Keno City, says Brad Cathers, minister of energy, mines and resources.

Alexco Resources recently submitted a proposal to Yukon’s Environment and Socio-Economic Assessment Board to build its Bellekeno mine about two kilometres east of Keno.

An ore-crushing mill would be located at Christal Lake, less than one kilometre west of the community.

The project is opposed by Keno residents such as Bob Wagner.

He’s not your typical mine opponent. He’s worked in the industry for more than 36 years.

But he’s worried winds may blow tailings into town, and that noise and traffic from the project will hurt the community’s tourism trade.

He and other residents want the mill located at another site, 11 kilometres from town. And they want pollutants stored in the tailings pond of the old Elsa mine.

But the company rejected this proposal.

It fears taking on the liability of Elsa’s contaminated site. And it says putting the mine at the other site would make transportation too costly.

The territory isn’t doing enough to help Keno residents in this fight, said Eric Fairclough, the Liberal MLA for Mayo-Tatchun, during question period on Thursday.

“Keno is quite small. I think what has happened here is that the minister decided it wasn’t important to talk to residents. He thought, ‘There’s just a few people there, it doesn’t matter what they think,’” said Fairclough.

He noted that the only government official to attend a March 10 meeting that brought together Keno residents, company representatives and federal officials was a mining recorder who took notes.

But territorial officials did meet with residents a month earlier, on February 12, said Cathers.

Now that the project is under review, “we’ll allow the board to do its work,” said Cathers. “We won’t interfere.”

When the board makes its recommendation, it will be given “full and fair consideration,” said Cathers.

Will health, environmental and tourism officials make submissions to the review board about the project? asked Fairclough.

That’s not a decision cabinet makes, said Cathers.

“We do not politically interfere with officials doing their jobs,” he said.

Wagner, who sat in the gallery with his family during question period, agrees there isn’t much for the government to do at this point except wait for the board’s recommendations.

But he wishes it had offered greater support before the project submission. A push by the territory may have swayed the company into choosing another site, he said.

And he questions how impartially the government will treat the project.

The Alexco website features a video, made in 2007,

that includes an interview with Archie Lang, then resources minister, who says he looks forward to the day the mine begins production, noted Wagner.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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