Skip to content

Trudeau spends a quarter of a billion dollars on highways to facilitate open-pit mines in Yukon

The Selwyn open-pit mine would be located at the headwaters of the Pelly River in Yukon.

The Trudeau government will spend $247 million of public funds to subsidize highway and bridge construction for mining corporations that want to build open-pit mines in the Yukon that involve massive tailings ponds that put local lakes and rivers at risk.

The Canadian Press reports, “Trudeau poured nearly a quarter of a billion dollars into Yukon’s highway network Saturday [September 2] in hopes it will lead to resource development, but some Indigenous leaders remain wary about environmental implications. Trudeau and Yukon Premier Sandy Silver announced their two governments will spend more than $360 million to improve road access to mineral-rich areas in the territory. …The governments say the money will upgrade more than 650 km of road and build or upgrade a number of bridges for highways leading into the Dawson Range in Central Yukon and the Nahanni Range in the southeast part of the territory.”

That article highlights, “Along the roadways highlighted in the project are several mines that have yet to receive regulatory approval. These include the Goldcorp Coffee Gold mine project and the Casino Mining Corporation’s open-pit mine project.” The subsidy will also assist with the viability of the Selwyn lead-zinc mine.

Goldcorp Coffee open-pit gold mine

In May, the CBC reported, “The Coffee Gold mine — set for 130 kilometres south of Dawson City — is expected to be a relatively small, short-term mine projected to produce about 200,000 ounces of gold per year for about 10 years. …The project requires 37 kilometres of new road and will cross both the Stewart and Yukon Rivers — by barge in summer and ice bridges in winter. The route will begin on the Hunker Creek Road just outside Dawson City and end at the mine site’s airstrip 214 kilometres away. …Lewis Rifkind with the Yukon Conservation Society said the road will get close scrutiny along with plans for the mining byproducts and waste, the operation of the cyanide heap leaching pad where the gold is extracted, energy generation and water use.”

Casino open-pit gold-copper mine

In February 2016, CBC reported, “The Casino Mining Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of [Vancouver-based] Western Copper and Gold, is planning to build what would be the Yukon’s biggest mine, about 400 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse. If the mine is approved, the company says it could produce more than 400,000 ounces of gold annually and more than 200 million pounds of copper.”

That article highlights, “The Casino Mining Corporation is proposing to build an earth-fill dam to contain nearly a billion tonnes of tailings, covered by water. About 20 per cent of those tailings will be potentially acid-generating. The dam would be one of the world’s highest dams, and the highest tailings dam. …A similar dam used at British Columbia’s Mount Polley mine site failed in August 2014, spilling 24 million cubic metres of mine waste and water into nearby lakes and rivers.”

Selwyn open-pit lead-zinc mine

In 2010, China’s Yunnan Chihong Zinc and Germanium Co., Ltd. signed a joint venture agreement with Selwyn Resources Ltd. to develop a lead-zinc mine in Howard’s Pass on the Yukon-NWT border. CBC has noted, “Howard’s Pass is about 250 kilometres northwest of Ross River and is home to the headwaters of the Pelly River, the main watercourse used by the Kaska [Dena First Nations] for transportation, hunting and fishing.”

The online magazine Canadian Mining & Energy has reported, “The previous development team was proposing to develop the project with a 3,500- tonnes-per-day mill fed by an underground mining operation. Following an internal scoping study, the new management is now proposing a 25,000-tonnes-per-day mill fed by an open-pit mining operation. Additional work is ongoing to further expand the size of the mine. …If all goes as planned, the Selwyn project will be the largest mining project in the Yukon’s history, with an approximate construction cost of $1.8 billion.”

In November 2016, the Yukon News reported, “Selwyn and Coffee haven’t started the environmental assessment process yet. And Casino was recently referred to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board’s highest level of review, partly due to concerns about the size of its proposed tailings pond.”

The Trudeau government is spending a quarter of a billion dollars on road construction despite the lack of regulatory approval of these mines and the threat they pose to waterways. The Council of Canadians is calling for new safeguards to protect waterways in Canada. We reject the use of federal infrastructure funds that worsen climate change and/or endanger freshwater in this country.