New deal won’t change Bellekeno’s fate

Alexco Resource Corp.'s amended deal with Canada on the Keno Hill cleanup work won't have any effect on whether or not the Bellekeno mine reopens in 2014, said company president Clynton Nauman.

Alexco Resource Corp.‘s amended deal with Canada on the Keno Hill cleanup work won’t have any effect on whether or not the Bellekeno mine reopens in 2014, said company president Clynton Nauman.

The mine is expected to shut down this fall in response to low silver prices.

But the plan is to reopen next year, if the economic situation allows for it.

In addition to running Bellekeno, Alexco has a subsidiary that is in charge of environmental remediation in the area.

The Elsa Reclamation and Development Company works under contract from the Government of Canada to clean up messes left behind by historical mines.

But the operations are completely separate, said Nauman.

There are efficiencies to be gained when the mine is up and running, because infrastructure is already on site, he said. But the new deal with Canada won’t influence whether or not Bellekeno is able to reopen, said Nauman.

The agreement announced last week appears to give the company a much sweeter deal.

The company will contribute five per cent of the costs for developing the reclamation plan, compared with the 35 per cent previously agreed upon.

Alexco will also recoup about $2 million already spent in excess of the now agreed upon five per cent share.

But those changes are simply a reallocation of funds, said Nauman.

As work progresses, ideas about the best path forward evolve, he said.

Many of the tasks that were previously in the cleanup phase of the project have moved to the planning phase, said Nauman.

The company must do detailed assessments of all the old mine sites and determine the most efficient way to clean them up. That technical analysis will likely result in several cleanup options.

Then those options will be taken out to consultation with communities, First Nations, and the Yukon government.

The company must also get permits for the work before it can begin.

The planning phase began in 2006 and remediation work is expected to begin in 2016.

Alexco has committed $10 million towards the cleanup, which is currently being held in trust.

The rest of the money will be paid by the Canadian government by way of contract to the subsidiary company.

About $19.5 million has been spent on the work so far, according to Sierra van Der Meer with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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