Capstone’s Minto mine, the only operating mine in the Yukon, will remain open until the middle of 2020.
The copper mine, located 240 kilometres north of Whitehorse, was slated for closure in December of 2017, based on poor market forecasts and copper prices below US$2 per pound, said Ron Light, the mine’s general manager. The market has improved, however, he said, and prices have gone up.
“It’s certainly a better future than we saw last year,” he said.
Approximately 80 employees were laid off in September 2016. Most of those employees were called back again in January, he said.
“I think the encouraging thing about this is that about 50 per cent of our employees are based in the Yukon,” Light said.
The mine currently employs 306 people, he said, with 144 of those being direct Minto employees and another 162 working for contractors. Light said their “most important” contractor, Pelly Construction, has 60 employees.
Light said they are currently fully staffed, so any new hires to the mine would be for replacement purposes.
The price of copper on April 27 was US$2.58 per pound.
“The exchange rate certainly helps us,” Light said.
The mine could remain open “possibly beyond” 2020 if the company can tap into other ore bodies, which may require additional permitting, he said.
The 2020 closure date is dependant on the market remaining positive, Light said.
“If there was a significant downturn, that would definitely affect our plans,” he said.
Last December, Capstone won approval from the Yukon government for changes to its mining plan and water licence to begin mining a new pit, which would provide work for 40 to 45 employees.
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