Yukon's Minto mine OK'd to ramp up operations

Laid off workers have been recalled to begin stripping and mining a new open pit in early January at the copper mine site in central Yukon.

Workers are set to begin stripping and mining a new open pit at the Yukon copper mine

Minto Mine will begin work early next month on a new open pit. (Chris Wattie/Reuters )

The Yukon government has given Minto Exploration Limited permission to extract copper ore from a new open pit mine at its property in central Yukon.

The company closed down its last open pit mine in October, resulting in 58 layoffs by contractor Pelly Construction as well as eight direct Minto employees, said Ron Light, the mine's general manager.

It continued to mine an underground ore body, but the newly approved project will "extend our mine life and allow us to mill to the end of 2017," he said.

Minto Mine's general manager Ron Light says around 50 workers overall, including many from contractor Pelly Construction, will be recalled to begin work on the open pit. (Ron Light)

More than 40 workers from Pelly Construction will be recalled to dig and operate the new pit, as well as six to eight Minto employees, said Light. The laid off workers will be given priority for the positions that come up with the new operations.

"They are a good group to work with," he said.

Minto will continue to mine underground and from the new open pit until the end of 2017, he said. During that time the company will look at developing further open pits at the site.

Since the layoffs in October, the price of copper has risen to $2.49 per pound from $2.10 per pound, which "is all positive," said Light.

Light says the new work should keep the mine operating through 2017. (Pelly Construction Ltd.)
The company had said it was going to have to close the mine. The construction of the new pit gives Yukon some good news to take to the annual mineral exploration Roundup convention in Vancouver next month, said Ranj Pillai, the minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.

"We're looking forward to the communication we're going to share in Vancouver at the Roundup conference," Pillai said.

"We're feeling very optimistic about what's happening in the mining sector."  

Fifty per cent of Minto employees are Yukoners, up from 15 per cent four years ago, Light said.