Mining’s slice of the pie grows

Capstone Mining Corporation's Minto mine injected $60.9 million into the territory's economy in 2008, according to numbers released by the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

Capstone Mining Corporation’s Minto mine injected $60.9 million into the territory’s economy in 2008, according to numbers released by the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

This money was spread among the territory’s heavy-equipment operators, airlines, hotels and restaurants. The territorial government and First Nations were also beneficiaries.

Such figures are proof of “how crucial our industry is to Yukon’s future well-being,” said Claire Derome, the chamber’s vice-president, in a release.

“We should all be incredibly proud of the opportunities we have to become more economically self-sufficient and diversified through our mining industry,” she said.

Metal-ore mining’s slice of Yukon’s gross domestic product grew to 5.2 per cent in 2008 from just 1.1 per cent in 2006, according to preliminary numbers released by Yukon’s statistics bureau. Much of that growth is due to Minto, said Scott Milton, the territory’s director of economics research.

And mine development is expected to grow eight-fold this year, to above $200 million from $25 million, according to Yukon’s economic outlook for 2009. Most of that growth is expected to be driven by the commission of Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine mine near Ross River.

An additional 350 jobs should be produced this year from work at Wolverine and Alexco’s Bellekeno mine just outside Keno City, said the chamber.

Yet mining remains a small—albeit growing—sliver of Yukon’s economy, which continues to be heavily dependent on government support.

Minto, which is currently Yukon’s only operating hard-rock mine, employs just over 100 people, with an additional 100 contractors employed indirectly.

To put these numbers in perspective, in 2008, Yukon had 17,100 employed residents. Of those, 6,700 worked for some level of government. And many private-sector employees remain dependent on government contracts.

The anticipated surge in mine development will be balanced by a big drop in mining exploration, as much exploration is done by junior companies which have been hit the hardest by the global downturn.

The territory is projecting that just $25 to $40 million will be spent on exploration this year, compared to the territory’s estimate of $110 million for 2008.

But last year was an exceptional one for mining exploration, said Milton. When compared against the five-year trend, 2009’s projections still look strong, he said.

Yukon’s gold placer miners may fare better, with lower fuel prices, strong gold prices and a lower Canadian dollar all working in their favour.

Minto’s expenditures in the Yukon for 2008 include:

* $54.5 million to Yukon suppliers and contractors;

* $3.7 million in payroll to Yukon residents directly employed by Minto, with a matching figure expected for contractors indirectly employed by the mine;

* $1.3 million to commercial airlines flying to and from the territory;

* $1.3 million in payments to Yukon and First Nation governments; and,

* $100,000 to local hotels and restaurants.

Contact John Thompson at