Skip to content

Yukon government finds reasonable grounds for Waters Act breaches in mine landslide

Company directed to plan for slope stability, monitoring and water treatment
An aerial photo of the landslide off the heap leach facility at the Eagle Gold Mine taken on July 3. (Government of Yukon/Supplied)

Editor's note: The Yukon government issued a July 10 update to the July 5 inspector's direction referenced in this story. The update was provided to the News after publication. The updated direction removes references to Waters Act breaches and instead refers to "reasonable grounds to believe there has been a failure of works related to the use of waters or the deposit of waste," at the mine. The portion of the inspector's direction regarding work to be completed at the mine remains the same.

A Yukon government document authored following the inspection of Victoria Gold Corp’s Eagle Gold Mine following the June 24 landslide that breached the heap leach facility at the mine finds there are reasonable grounds for Waters Act contraventions and danger to the environment. The inspector’s direction, dated July 5, sets out measures the company is directed to take going forward. 

The inspector’s direction states that the landslide resulted in the release of material and contaminated water to the surrounding environment. 

The document penned by Sevn Bohnet, an inspector designated by the territorial government’s minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to look into the impacts of the heap leach facility failure, states that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Victoria Gold contravened section 38 (1) (a) of the Yukon’s Waters Act and that a danger to the environment can be reasonably expected as a result. Section 38 (1) (a) of the Water Act outlines offences stemming from water licence breaches and the deposit of waste in waters or in a water management area. 

The inspector’s direction states that it draws from the work of Yukon natural resource officers and compliance, monitoring and inspections branch staff including water sampling conducted June 25. The results of those samples also amount to a water licence breach as the sampled water did not meet the quality standards set out in the licence, the report notes.

Cyanide, metals and other contaminants are listed as concerns due to their impacts on fish and potential effects on humans if enough is ingested. 

“During the inspection it was observed that sloughed heap material had flowed downstream throughout the Dublin Gulch valley beyond containment structures. It was also noted that heap solution associated with the sloughed heap materials likely escaped containment and potentially infiltrated into the underlying placer tailings affecting groundwater in the Dublin Gulch valley and downstream environment," reads the document.

Also noted is the risk that the instability of the steep face of materials remaining in the heap leach pad pose to the environment and to people on site. 

The inspector directs Victoria Gold to install a groundwater interception system to catch water that may be flowing through placer tailings below the toe of the slide and come up with a plan for temporary stabilization of the slide.

The company is also being directed to plan for environmental monitoring to include daily water monitoring at existing sites and the set up of additional monitoring stations as needed to “fully characterize the impacts of the heap leach failure to the aquatic environment.”

A water treatment plan is also directed. 

Deadlines for the plans except the slope stability plan passed on July 8 and 9. Mines department representative John Thompson told the News that all plans had been received on time so far. The slope stability plan is expected July 11.

Appended to the Victoria Gold Yukon Water Board file along with the inspector’s direction is a preliminary spill report on the June 24 slide. It notes that the check dams installed in Dublin Gulch have been effective so far with all fluids captured by the dam being pumped to lined containment ponds. 

“Investigations regarding the stability of the (heap leach facility), potential causes of the event, and remediation planning are ongoing,” the July 4 spill report reads. 

Contact Jim Elliot at

Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
Read more