Ranj Pillai, minister of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, at a press conference in Whitehorse on Aug. 28. Mines should ideally be powered by renewable energy sources in order to carry out a new territorial plan to combat climate change, said Pillai following the release of the Yukon government’s draft climate change strategy on Nov. 14. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

On, off-grid mines being considered following release of draft climate change plan: Pillai

Intensity-based targets are to be established with the mining sector

Mines should ideally be powered by renewable energy sources in order to carry out a new territorial plan to combat climate change, said Ranj Pillai, minister of energy, mines and resources.

Central to the Yukon government’s draft climate change strategy, released on Nov. 14, is reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

Included in the plan is introducing intensity-based targets for mines, the goal being to cut emissions during their life cycles and gauged per unit (kilogram or kilotonne) produced.

Victoria Gold’s Eagle mine as well as the Minto mine are connected to the grid, meaning that roughly 93 per cent of power they use is green because it comes from hydroelectricity, Pillai said.

But there are upcoming off-grid projects in the works that would run off fossil fuels — Coffee, Kudz Ze Kayah and the Casino projects.

Pillai said on-grid versus off-grid mine projects are being “taken into consideration,” adding that it needs to be determined whether it’s feasible to run further transmission lines.

How a balance will be struck between the two types in order to pull off the emissions target is what the leader of the third party wants to know, along with data showing the current output from mines.

“It’s not that I’m saying mining shouldn’t happen in the territory, but I think we should be honest about the cost of mining, right, how does that work?” said NDP’s Kate White on Nov. 20. “I think it’s important that we work with the mining industry, but the concern is some mine operators will be different. Some will work very hard to reduce (emissions) and some maybe less so.”

Pillai said consultations are to take place with stakeholders in the mining sector soon to determine how best to set targets.

Meeting targets must remain consistent, provided that there can be boom and bust periods in the industry, he said.

“I don’t think that’s where we really want to be. We want to be able to still have a strong economy, but we wanna be able to work with the sector to understand what the intensity should be for extracting.”

White is calling for current data showing total emissions of Yukon mines.

Pillai said what was included in the draft strategy is the best data available.

“You go with the data you have, so I think everybody would have wanted to have stronger data,” he said. “It’s not about the strength of that data per se, it’s about when data started to be collected in the Yukon that you could use.”

The draft strategy includes non-mining emissions, which were 620 kilotonnes in 2017, up from 590 kilotonnes in 2010. It says that industrial and commercial activities account for 11 per cent of total emissions. It appears there’s no specific data regarding emissions from mines in the plan.

“Getting accurate data for the mining sector is key to establishing an intensity based target,” said department spokesperson Jesse Devost in a written statement. “We are working on refining our data quality and methodology to help us establish and measure against a target.”

There are several “actions” included in the draft strategy that centre on the mining industry. Encouraging low-carbon practices and technologies, projecting emissions for quartz mining and investigating “alternative energy sources” at mine sites are some examples.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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