Yukon's Minto mine mulls temporary closure as copper price sags

Yukon's only working mine is operating at a loss amid low commodity prices. The manager of the Minto copper mine said they're re-evaluating operations 'on a monthly basis.'

'A temporary closure could last six months, it could last 24 months,' says mine manager

The Minto copper mine is about 240 kilometres north of Whitehorse. About 300 employees and contractors currently work at the open pit mine, according to manager Ronald Light. (Capstone Mining)

Officials with Capstone's Minto mine in Yukon say low copper prices are forcing them to re-evaluate the operation, and even plan for a possible closure.

"I think if you look at the commodity prices right now, we would be evaluating ore bodies, and mining and milling, on a monthly basis," said Ronald Light, the mine's manager.

Light said the mine has enough reserves and resources to operate until 2022, but he admits a temporary closure could happen sooner — though not likely before 2017.

"I think you have to look at it positively. A temporary closure could last six months, it could last 24 months, and it could last longer," he said. 

"The nice thing about the resource industry is, what's in the ground stays in the ground until you extract it."

Yukon's only working mine was granted a key water permit last summer. As part of that, the mine must submit a reclamation and closure plan by August but territorial regulators have also requested a plan for any temporary closure, by the end of February.

Light says copper is currently selling for slightly less than the cost of production at Minto, although he said going into shutdown mode would likely be far costlier.