Yukon's Minto Mine looks to bring back laid off workers

Yukon's only operating hard rock mine wants to resume open pit operations in the new year, which would see the return of dozens of workers who were laid off in October.

'The bump in commodity prices certainly put us, you might say, over the hump,' mine manager says

There are still about 175 people employed at the Minto mine, as the company continues to work an underground deposit, and mill stockpiled material. The new plan is to resume open pit mining of a new deposit, meaning dozens of workers could be recalled in January. (Capstone Mining)

A recent bump in the price of copper has Yukon's only operating mine looking to bring back some laid-off workers.

The Minto copper mine closed all of its open-pit mining operations on Oct. 1, meaning that 58 employees contracted through Pelly Construction Ltd. were laid off. 

Now, the mine is hoping to resume some open pit operations at a new deposit on site, and has asked the territorial government to approve changes to its mine plan.  

"The economics are there, not to make a large profit but to make it economic to mine it," said mine manager Ron Light.

"Certainly the bump in commodity prices certainly put us, you might say, over the hump in making the decision."

Light says the company needed the price of copper to reach at least US$2.55/lb to prompt the decision. For the last week, it's been hovering around US$2.60/lb, up from a low of US$1.96/lb earlier this year.

Closure still planned for late 2017

The Minto mine is located about 240 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse, near Pelly Crossing.

Right now, there is some underground mining at the site, and the company is milling stockpiled material. Light says there are about 135 workers currently employed by Minto, with another 40 contract workers on site.

If the new plan is approved, Light says "the majority" of the workers laid off in October would be brought back and mine operations could be kept going for a few more months, into late 2017.

That's when Minto would go into temporary shutdown, as planned.

"In the meantime we'll look at all other options, if there's any opportunities to mine past that time," Light said.

"I know everybody's looking now that it's gone up to $2.60, $2.62, but it's still got a long way to go before we can mine all the resources and reserves at Minto."

Light hopes to have government approval for the new plan within the next few weeks, meaning workers would be called back in January.

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