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Contaminated mine “an embarrassment to Canada”


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February 9, 2017 by John Nicholson

As reported by the CBC, a Yukon judge recently gave a scathing assessment of the clean-up efforts at the Mount Nansen mine.   Formerly owned by BYG Natural Resources Inc., the Mount Nansen mine is an abandoned former gold and silver mine located in the heart of the Yukon Territory in northwestern Canada.  It is currently under government care.

Mt. Nansen Mine aerial photo (2008)

Yukon Supreme court justice Ron Veale approved a clean-up plan for the abandoned Mount Nansen mine in the spring of 2016.  However, he issued his written decision only recently.

In the decision, the judge heavily criticizes the former owner of the mine, BYG Resources, for an “unscrupulous history of … operational mismanagement” that left a big, toxic mess is to be clean-up using Canadian taxpayers’ money.

“This case stands as a painful reminder of the lasting and egregious damage that unscrupulous and unchecked profiteering can bring about in the mining sector.  It is an embarrassment to Canada, Yukon and the responsible mining community,” Veale’s decision reads.  “It is my opinion that an account of BYG’s historical activity in the Yukon should be brought to the attention of the federal and territorial taxpayers, who remain fiscally responsible for remediation efforts.”

History of the Mine

BYG began mining gold and silver at the Mount Nansen site in 1996.  By 1999, the company ceased operations as it was unable to meet the requirements of its water licence.

Immediately after shutdown, BYG appointed a receiver to the site.  In July 1999, the receiver abandoned the property.  The Government of Canada took control of the site and began implementing care and maintenance operations.

In 2003, under an agreement between the Yukon and Canadian governments, the Yukon government became responsible for the property along with the development and implementation of a remediation plan.  The financial responsibility for the site resides with the Government of Canada.

In a 2007 decision by the Yukon Supreme Court ruled on environmental charges, the court found the company guilty of “raping and pillaging” the Yukon’s resources.

A 2011 environmental assessment at Mount Nansen estimated about 55,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil, 300,000 cubic metres of tailings and 500,000 cubic metres of waste rock at the site.

To date, it is estimated that approximately $25 million has been spent by the government to monitor and control the site.

Business Opportunity

The mine currently for sale to whomever is willing to take on a “government subsidized remediation project,” according to Veale.

In late 2016, pwc, the court-appointed receiver for the mine, announced a shortlist of proponents who successfully responded to a Request for Qualifications on the purchase of assets and remediation work.  The successful respondents are as follows:

  • 536086 Yukon Inc. (lead respondent Merit Consultants International)
  • Alexco Environmental Group Inc. (lead respondent)
  • Morgan Construction & Environmental Ltd. (lead respondent)

It is expected the pwc will issue a Request for Proposals shortly.  The costs to implement the remediation plan would be paid by the Government of Canada.

Under the conditions of sale, the purchaser will be required to prepare a detailed design for the remediation plan, subject to peer review, and approval under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act.

Required remediation tasks include de-watering the existing pit in preparation to accept the waste rock, tailings, and contaminated soil, then sealing the pit with a permanent liner.  The plan calls for a clean up “as close to walk away as possible,” with nothing left on site that is not required for long term monitoring and maintenance.

The winning proponent will have up to 10 years to complete the tasks required, and could then acquire permits to mine any viable mineral deposits on the property.


John Nicholson

John Nicholson

John is a cleantech and environmental expert with over 25 years of experience. He is a registered professional engineer and has a Masters degree in environmental engineering.
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