Minto hopes to ring in the new year by mining new pit

Officials with Capstone’s Minto mine are hoping to know by the end of this week whether they’ll be able to hire back most of the people they had to let go earlier this year.

Officials with Capstone’s Minto mine are hoping to know by the end of this week whether they’ll be able to hire back most of the people they had to let go earlier this year.

The mine has applied to the Yukon government for approval to amend its mining plan and start a new open pit on its property near Pelly Crossing, mine manager Ron Light said. If it’s approved the copper mine will need to hire about 40-45 people, ideally to start in January.

“I’m feeling great about it,” Light said. “My job is not only to see Capstone do well, but my personal objective is to make sure we keep as many people employed as long as we can.”

Open-pit mining wrapped up at Minto at the end of September. Pelly Construction Ltd. had to lay off 58 workers.

Jennifer Byram, vice-president of Pelly Construction Ltd., said she expects many of the staff who were laid off to come back if the new plans go ahead.

“Some of our staff have found work since they were laid off in the fall but the majority of the jobs that they found are short term.”

Light said he hopes the company will be able to fill all the positions it needs with Yukoners.

“We’re still trying to keep our Yukon-based employee numbers up, we’re up close to 50 per cent now and that’s the objective,” he said.

“The first objective is to hire as many Selkirk First Nations (people) as we can, the second objective is to hire Yukoners and then if we still need people we’ll go outside of the Yukon.

The decision to try and start up a new pit was helped by the rising price of copper, Light said.

As of today the price of copper was hovering just above $2.60/lbs.

“We always looked at it to push out the life of the mine, we did see that we could mine it probably around $2.10, $2.20 a pound,” he said. But the fact that the price has gone up certainly put us over the hump for making a decision.”

The mine was expected to go into temporary closure in mid-2017. The new pit would push the life on the mine until the end of next year, Light said.

“With the new pit, that would put the open pit through until July or august. Stockpiles plus what we’re mining underground would push us through until the end of 2017.”

In the meantime the company is looking for more ways to stretch the life of the site even further, he said, though he didn’t have any details yet.

Byram said she hopes the Yukon government will make its decision soon.

“I hope we get official news before Christmas because I think it would make a lot of people’s Christmases better.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com