Minto mine evacuates 40 workers

Thick smoke from a nearby forest fire has forced the evacuation of 40 people from the Minto mine. Although the fire has not moved closer to the copper mine, Capstone Mining has taken a "precautionary measure."

Thick smoke from a nearby forest fire has forced the evacuation of 40 people from the Minto mine.

Although the fire has not moved closer to the copper mine, Capstone Mining has taken a “precautionary measure” by getting employees with respiratory problems out of the area, said George Maratos, Yukon’s fire information officer.

The fire is 9.1 kilometres away, but it has expanded to 3,400 hectares—almost 19 times the size of Whitehorse’s downtown.

A shift in the winds could bring the fire closer to the mine.

The evacuation came as part of Capstone’s emergency plan announced Wednesday.

“What we’ve got is a flexible management plan, an emergency management plan that responds to the situation as it is,” said Stephen Quin, Capstone’s president.

The loose plan will remove “nonessential” employees as the fire gets closer, Quin added. It will start with administrative staff and if it gets dangerous enough, Capstone will have to halt operations.

“It’s a staged withdrawal, so as the fire gets to certain stages, we’ll start moving people out,” said Quin.

The Yukon Wildland Fire Management has set up sprinkler kits in the area to “reinforce protection values,” such as a bridge, said Maratos. A nearby power line has been de-energized as well.

There are 15 firefighters working with four fire behaviour specialists from Alberta.

“These are top-notch guys that have dealt with fire situations similar to this in their province and other parts of the country,” said Maratos. “So it’s fortunate that we’re able to use their skills.”

A liaison officer has also been sent as an “open line of communication” between Capstone employees and the fire department.

“I think the mine staff really appreciate having a liaison officer right on the ground that can explain to them the fire situation. He can relay to them any information that has come in from the fire centre, and it’s just nice to have a face-to-face encounter and conversation,” said Maratos.

The cause of the fire remains unknown, he added, but an investigation is underway.

Contact Larissa Robyn Johnston at larissaj@yukon-news.com.