July 14th, 2024

Ore slide at Yukon’s Victoria Gold mine not the first this year: government officials

By The Canadian Press on June 28, 2024.

The Yukon provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. Yukon government mining officials say a recent ore-slide at a central gold mine was the second time the heap leach facility has failed this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

WHITEHORSE – A recent slide of ore at a gold mine in central Yukon was the second such failure this year, the territorial government said.

That has one environmental group wondering if the previous problems at the heap-leach facility at Victoria Gold’s Eagle Mine should have been a warning sign, while the government waits to find out if the latest slide released cyanide into nearby creeks.

Work was stopped at the mine north of Mayo on Monday when the company announced the failure of its heap-leach pad, part of the system that uses a cyanide solution to extract gold from ore.

Yukon’s director of mineral resources, Kelly Constable, said Friday that the mine’s ore stockpile was in a series of “benches” and this week’s collapse was a “multi-bench failure, meaning it was significant in size.”

“The company moved quickly following the slide to build dams to hold back contaminated water released from the slide material,” she said.

Constable said a previous failure in January was at a different part of the facility, and that chemicals were not being used at that time. She said the ore in that case was contained.

A statement from the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said it wondered if the January event “should have been a warning sign about the flaws of the heap leach facility.”

“According to a Jan. 17, 2024, mine inspection report, ‘a slope failure occurred at the southeast area of the Heap Leach Facility (HLF),’ sloughing off 14,000 tonnes of crushed ore. The slide was later found to have damaged the heap leach liner,” the statement says.

A technical report on the Victoria Gold website says the primary heap leach pad can hold up to 92 million tonnes of ore and that the cyanide solution can move through the facility at two million litres an hour.

Victoria Gold CEO John McConnell did not respond to requests for comment.

Constable told a media technical briefing that information is still being gathered on how much ore moved in the latest slide, how much cyanide was in the facility at the time, and what caused the collapse.

Health officials have said current information suggested drinking water wells for the Village of Mayo are not affected.

A spokeswoman for the Yukon Workers’ Safety and Compensation Board said at Friday’s briefing there was one reported injury associated with the slide and that two workers at the site had received first aid treatment. However, none of the injuries were considered serious.

– By Ashley Joannou in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2024.

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