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Yukon construction company to partner with Ross River Dena Council on Faro mine remediation

Pelly Construction Ltd. is the successful bidder on a federal contract to start remediation work at the mine site at Faro, Yukon, and has announced plans to partner with the local First Nation.

'Ross River has not had a good experience with the Faro mine,' says CEO of Dena Nezziddi Development Corp.

The first project at the Faro mine site is starting in early February. It involves constructing a 1.15 km construction diversion channel which will redirect parts of Rose Creek away from the waste rock. (Pelly Construction)

Pelly Construction Ltd. is the successful bidder on an Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada federal contract to remediate the Faro mine in Yukon, and has announced plans to partner with Dena Nezziddi Development Corporation, owned by the Ross River Dena Council.

The project is being managed by Parsons Inc., based in Calgary, Alta.

"Ross River has not had a good experience with the Faro mine. I don't think anyone can really second guess that," said Stanley Noel, CEO of Dena Nezziddi Development Corporation. He said that since the mine opened in 1969 up until today, Ross River has seen very little benefit from the project.

This work is a continuation of the remedation at the mine site, which has been on and off since the mine shut down. 

But Noel said there are two really good things coming out of the remediation project: "number one and most important is this environmental mess getting cleaned up. And it's something that the First Nation has ... said it's really important to them.

"But the second part of it, and the part that I'm quite excited about, as CEO of the Development Corporation, is we are involved in the work construction, and starting to see some economic benefits as a result of the work that's going on."

Stanley Noel with Chief Jack Caesar of Ross River Dena Council at the Faro Mine site. (Stanley Noel)

The first phase of remediation is starting in early February. It involves constructing a 1.15 kilometre channel which will redirect the flow of parts of Rose Creek near the mine site.

Right now, contaminated water with high levels of zinc is seeping from waste rock into the creek.

"It's just been getting worse and worse... You got snow melt, you got rain falling in the summer and it's all leaching through this waste rock pile into Rose Creek," said Lewis Rifkind, mining analyst with the Yukon Conservation Society. "They have been doing water treatment at the site, and one of the ways to do that is to physically move the creek away from the contaminated rock and waste rock." 

He said there hasn't been a lot of remediation done and he's happy the federal government is investing money into the project. 

"The waste, the damage that's on that traditional territory is the size of the City of Victoria,' says Stanley Noel, CEO of Dena Nezziddi Development Corporation. (Stanley Noel)

The work will also include temporary construction of access roads, temporary bridges and diverting the creek.

"The total number of dollars going to be spent in the next couple of years up there is $89 million. This is just a fraction of that," said Jennifer Byram, vice president of Pelly Construction.

Byram said that being a partner with the Ross River Dena council will be unique, because the First Nation will help hire employees and subcontractors, as well as work with Pelly Construction in management positions.

According to the federal government, there are around 70 million tonnes of tailings and 320 million tonnes of waste rock at the mine site.

"The waste, the damage that's on that traditional territory is the size of the city of Victoria," said Noel. "And that's what the big project is going to fix and hopefully remediate it to some standard where we see wildlife and fish and people using the area again someday."

The Faro mine remediation is estimated to cost more than $500 million over the next 15 to 20 years.

Jennifer Byram, vice-president of Pelly Construction Ltd., says partnering with the Ross River Dena council will be unique. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

About the Author

Mike Rudyk

Reporter, CBC Yukon

Mike Rudyk has worked for CBC Yukon since 1999, as a reporter and videographer. He lives in Whitehorse.

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