Mining industry takes a hit in 2013

Mineral exploration spending in Yukon was just $45 million in 2013, down from $300 million in 2011. Derek Torgerson, a geologist with Energy, Mines and Resources, gave an overview of the mining industry.

Mineral exploration spending in Yukon was just $45 million in 2013, down from $300 million in 2011.

Derek Torgerson, a geologist with Energy, Mines and Resources, gave an overview of the mining industry Monday at the Yukon Geosciences Forum.

The decline was in response to falling resource prices, cost increases and disappearing investment dollars for exploration, said Torgerson.

While the industry has quieted dramatically compared to a couple of years ago, it remains stronger than at other moments in the recent past.

Spending in 2013 was much higher than what was the norm in the early 2000s, and on par with investment in 1995 and 1996.

This year also saw $56 million in development spending, largely attributable to Capstone Mining Corp.‘s underground expansion at its Minto copper mine.

“This was probably the good story for 2013,” said Torgerson.

Yukon’s two other producing mines both saw cutbacks in 2013.

Alexco Resource Corp. announced in July that it would shut down the Bellekeno silver mine for the winter. It is scheduled to reopen next year, assuming that the mineral prices are favourable and the company is able to find ways to cut costs.

And Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine scaled back production to 60 per cent in July, before ramping it back up to 75 per cent in October.

A number of mines have completed or begun the regulatory assessment process.

Victoria Gold’s Eagle Gold mine has been fully permitted, but needs to find $420 million in capital investments if construction is to begin on schedule in 2014.

Eagle Industrial Minerals Corp. has also received permits to extract magnetite from tailings at the old Whitehorse Copper mine site. But that project hit a snag last month because the company has failed to reach an agreement to ship the ore out of Skagway. Unless a compromise is reached, the plan could be derailed.

North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd. is nearing the end of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board process. The final round of public comment has closed and YESAB is now tasked with issuing a recommendation on the project.

Ketza River Holdings submitted a project proposal in September of 2011 for the Ketza River mine project. But that proposal still languishes in the adequacy review phase.

The board found “a number of substantive deficiencies” in the original proposal, which the company has yet to correct, according to documents on YESAB’s online registry.

In August the board informed the company that all additional information must be received by September 22, two years after the initial submission, unless another deadline could be agreed upon.

The board agreed to an extension until July 31, 2014 at the company’s request, but noted that delay could reflect badly on YESAB and “call into question the timeliness, efficiency and certainty of the assessment process.”

If the company does not submit all of the information by the new deadline, the proposal could be thrown out, according to a letter to the company.

Ketza River Holdings is a subsidiary of Yukon-Nevada Gold Corp., which changed its name last year to Veris Gold Corp.

The Ketza River Project is located at the historic Ketza River Mine, which produced gold and silver between 1988 and 1990.

Western Copper and Gold expects to submit a proposal for the Casino mine to YESAB by the end of 2013, confirmed president Paul West-Sells, who also spoke at the geoscience forum this week. It will cost $2.5 billion to get that mine into production.

The company formerly known as Golden Predator, meanwhile, is preparing to take another run at re-opening the Brewery Creek gold mine.

Assessors rejected an earlier proposal by the company, after concluding it needed to be vetted by the executive committee and complete a more rigourous level of assessment.

At the time, the company warned that the decision could throw the entire project into question. However, the company – since rebranded as Americas Bullion Royalty Corp. – announced last month that it has hired Access Consulting Group, a subsidiary of Alexco Resource Corp., to prepare a proposal for YESAB’s executive committee screening.

The placer mining industry fared relatively well in 2013. There were about 140 active placer mining operations that employed around 400 people, according to Torgerson’s presentation.

Production totalled 53,315 ounces, up slightly from 2012. However, with lower gold prices, the value of this year’s take was lower than last year.

There were 1,876 claims staked in 2013, and there are currently 236,460 claims in good standing across the territory, covering about 10 per cent of Yukon’s area.

Just over 100 exploration projects took place in 2013.

Seventy-three per cent of the $45 million in exploration spending went towards finding gold, with 12 per cent for silver.

Half of this year’s exploration projects received some funding through the Yukon government’s mining incentive program, which doled out $1.17 million this year.

The government boosted funding by $600,000 this year in response to the weakening market conditions, Torgerson said.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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