Mining group touts greener tech

A new mining industry group has set up shop in the Yukon. The Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum's Whitehorse chapter held its first meeting Wednesday evening. Paul Christman is the group's chair.

A new mining industry group has set up shop in the Yukon.

The Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum’s Whitehorse chapter held its first meeting Wednesday evening.

Paul Christman is the group’s chair.

“I think there’s a lot of exciting projects going on in the Yukon, and I don’t think enough people know about them,” he said.

Christman worked at Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine mine for three years. Now he’s the mining manager at TMAC Resources’ Hope Bay gold project in Nunavut, although he calls Whitehorse home.

The new group will help northern miners help each other to deal with some of the challenges of northern mining, he said.

“There are a lot of challenges in the North, and it seems that a lot of projects try and reinvent the wheel.”

For example, companies could do a better job sharing best practices for cold weather construction, he said.

At the Hope Bay project, where they drill into permafrost, there are tight restrictions on the amount of water they can pull from the environment, said Christman.

“We actually use drilling techniques that were developed in the deserts of Chile, to drill with less water.”

That’s the sort of information-sharing the group is mean to facilitate, he said.

Wednesday’s meeting features a talk by Janice Zinck, research manager with Natural Resources Canada.

Her research focus is on environmentally friendly mining techniques.

“The industry is making great strides in trying to be more environmentally conscious in what they are doing,” she said in an interview before the meeting.

Often, green technologies are good for companies’ bottom lines, too, said Zinck.

“Energy efficiency makes perfect sense. If you can save energy, you can save money. You protect the environment, you reduce greenhouse gases. It’s really a no-brainer.”

Christman agreed.

“In most cases, there are economic advantages to doing that,” he said. “The less water you use, the less water you have to process, the less waste you produce, the less waste you have to move, the less power you require, the less diesel you have to burn.”

But the industry can be slow to catch on to new techniques, said Zinck.

“The mining industry tends to be conservative, and tends to want to be first-to-be-second in the implementation of new technology.”

Part of Zinck’s job is to spread information about greener processes, not only to mining companies but also to the public and regulators, in order to reduce barriers to their implementation, she said.

There’s lots of good work being done in the Yukon already, said Christman.

He mentioned Shawn Ryan’s drone exploration programs in Dawson’s White Gold district, and Yukon College’s research into bioremediation.

The industry had made great strides in a short amount of time, he said.

“People won’t accept mines and projects that are run like they were 30 years ago in or around their communities. And that’s fair.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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