Federal gov't inches forward on Yukon's Faro Mine clean-up project
Officials expect to submit a plan to the territory's environmental screening agency before year's end
The head of the federal Faro Mine Remediation Project expects to submit plans for a final cleanup of the mine site to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) by the end of the year.
Lou Spagnuolo hopes to have the application approved in time for work at the site to begin in 2022.
On Tuesday, he told reporters in Whitehorse the goal of the massive reclamation project is to "keep clean water clean and to be able to collect contaminated water before it gets offsite."
The lead-zinc mine in central Yukon was abandoned in 1998. Almost 400 million tonnes of tailings and waste rock need to be covered by soil to prevent water from washing toxic metals from the rock into local creeks and rivers.
Spagnuolo said he and his staff are including input in the YESAB application from several affected First Nations — Selkirk, Liard and the Ross River Dena Council.
He said it's more typical for applicants to prepare their project proposal and then submit it, after which interested parties are asked for comment.
"First Nations including Ross River, in particular Ross River, are actually helping us draft that project proposal that we're submitting to YESAB so we're actually hoping taking this approach will actually streamline it, make these processes a little smoother, a little quicker," said Spagnuolo, adding his agency is also working closely with YESAB and the water board to help ease the permitting process.
He said getting the permits for the project could take three to four years.
Spagnuolo said the cost of the cleanup was estimated in 2009 to be as high as $500 million. He said that figure will be updated soon.
He said a construction manager should be hired in 2021. The construction manager will sub-contract all of the work out to other companies.
Spagnuolo said the work will be divided small work packages which will give Yukoners a better chance of getting sub-contracts.
The job is expected to take 10 to 15 years with about 100 employees working on the cleanup.
He said in the meantime the federal government will continue to deal with more urgent problems as they come up. It's about to award a $70-million contract to protect a local creek from contamination.
Spagnuolo began a tour of several Yukon communities on Tuesday, updating the public on progress and passing on what his team has heard so far from Yukoners.