Power problems for Keno City

The small community of Keno City in central Yukon has had a rough start to the new year, at least where electricity is concerned. The problems began on New Year’s Day and continue to plague residents.

The small community of Keno City in central Yukon has had a rough start to the new year, at least where electricity is concerned.

The problems began on New Year’s Day and continue to plague residents.

There were sporadic outages on Jan. 1, most lasting around seven to 20 minutes. Then around 11 p.m. the power went out and wasn’t restored until 10 a.m. the next day.

The power was off even longer for some Keno residents, like Insa Schultenkotter, who didn’t get it back until noon.

The Yukon Energy Corporation, which is responsible for the transmission line to Keno, said the outage was probably caused by heavy snow clinging to the lines.

However, it’s not exactly sure where the problem might be.

The Yukon Electrical Company, which is responsible for distributing the power to Keno, restored power in the area by bringing in a diesel generator from Whitehorse, but that generator stopped working and power went out again at 10 p.m. on Monday.

Schultenkotter was out shoveling snow when the power went off again on Monday. She described hearing a big bang “like a gun shot.”

Yukon Electrical Company spokesperson Laura Carlson said the problem was a mechanical failure.

Yukon Energy sent its own generator to help the ailing community, but it wasn’t needed. At least, not at first.

Power was restored to the grid around 3:45 on Tuesday.

This morning, after another night of heavy snow, the power went out again.

At 9 a.m., two hours later, power was restored to the community, using the Yukon Energy diesel generator.

The community was still being powered by this generator as of Wednesday noon.

“We appreciate the workers coming out at night at these temperatures trying to fix the problem,” said Schultenkotter.

“However, we are not impressed with the kind of ‘emergency plan’ Yukon Electrical Company has for Keno.”

There’s no back-up generator in nearby Mayo or Dawson, she pointed out.

“Not having a backup within reach of our community and having to bring one from Whitehorse in the middle of the night doesn’t make much sense,” she said. “Particularly if this generator appears to be malfunctioning.”

When the second generator was up and running this morning, Schultenkotter’s surge protector started beeping, indicating that the house was not quite receiving the steady power necessarily to run a computer safely.

A Yukon Energy crew is using a helicopter to fly the line for a second time today to try to find the problem.

“This time we will put what are known as fault detectors on sections of the line,” said spokesperson Janet Patterson.

“They will help us troubleshoot and hopefully pinpoint the problem.”

There are a few people in town who are heating with electricity. It’s costly, difficult and dangerous to be without power for such a long time in January, said Schultenkotter.

The Bellekino mine, which normally operates around the clock, was out of power for 36 hours.

The mine has a number of its own back-up generators, but these are only intended to keep critical equipment running, are not enough to return to full production.

The power came back online yesterday afternoon, but went out again early this morning.

The mine continues to be without power, but hopes it’ll be back up and running by the end of the day.

“It’s not lost production forever, it’s what I would call deferred production,” said Brad Thrall, the Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of Alexco.

“It’s tones of ore that we will mine and mill in the future, but it is lost revenue that we could be making today.”

The Bellekino mine produces over 200,000 ounces of silver per month, he said.

“So everyday that goes by that you’re not producing at those levels… it does have a short-term impact and it will take us some time to catch up again.”

Alexco cancelled its night shift at the mine two nights in a row.

But otherwise its been keeping its workers busy with maintenance and other projects.

Contact Chris Oke at chriso@yukon-news.com