he Carmacks copper mine is a go.
The Yukon government approved the project on Friday.
Dale Corman, CEO of Western Copper Corp., applauded the news in a release in which he said approval of the project “will make a positive contribution to the Yukon.”
Conservationists, who fear the mine may release toxins into a salmon-bearing stream, see it differently.
The mine’s approval exposes how the territory’s regulatory safety net has some big holes in it, said Karen Baltgailis, executive director of the Yukon Conservation Society.
Carmacks is the first mine to make its way through the territory’s environmental review regime, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.
And the scrutiny given by YESAB to the Carmacks project does not inspire much confidence, said Baltgailis.
“At this point we don’t have a lot of confidence YESAB is living up to the spirit and intent of what it is supposed to do,” she said. “We definitely have some concerns.”
The mine’s approval is “vague” as to what measures must be taken during clean up of contaminants, said Baltgailis.
If the mine, to be located 38 kilometres northwest of Carmacks, is built as planned, huge piles of rock would be sprayed with sulfuric acid in order to separate copper from the ore.
The acid would later be neutralized with an alkali wash.
But acid and heavy metals may survive the wash and spill into a nearby watershed, said Baltgailis, among others.
And the company’s proposed security bond of about $22.9 million may leave taxpayers on the hook if the mine’s cleanup is more difficult than expected, she added.
She pegs an adequate bond at double the company’s figure.
It’s not too late to toughen up the rules the mine must abide by. Such details may still be added to the mine’s licence, which must still be acquired.
The company hopes to open the mine by the end of 2010.