Yukon's Minto Mine to be shut down, up to 200 workers affected

Capstone Mining Corp. announced earlier this year that it had reached an agreement to sell Yukon's only working hard rock mine, but that's now fallen through.

Capstone Mining Corp. says a deal to sell Yukon's only working hard rock mine has fallen through

Workers at Yukon's Minto Mine in 2015. Capstone Mining Corp. says the mine will be put into temporary care and maintenance mode until markets improve. (Capstone Mining)

Yukon's only working hard rock mine is ceasing operations, putting about 200 employees and contractors out of work.

Capstone Mining Corp. made the announcement on Thursday, saying an agreement to sell the copper mine has collapsed. 

Cindy Burnett, the vice-president for investor relations and communications, at Capstone Resources says there is still enough copper at the Minto Mine to make it profitable if prices rise. (Capstone Resources)

The company announced earlier this year that it had reached an agreement with U.K.-based Pembridge Resources to sell the mine for $37.5 million US in cash, plus shares.

But Cindy Burnett, a Capstone vice-president, said Thursday that Pembridge struggled as the price of copper fell over the summer.

"It's fallen 20 per cent, from the beginning of June to today," she said.

"So, to be able to raise money on the back of copper prices when they are uncertain, their direction is uncertain, unfortunately caused Pembridge not to be able to raise the full amount of the money."

Burnett said about half of the roughly 200 workers at Minto are Capstone employees, and the other half are contractors. A dozen or so Capstone employees will stay on as the mine site goes into care and maintenance mode.

The company says a small team of workers will oversee the site while it's under care and maintenance. (Capstone Mining Corp.)

"It is not our intention at this point to go into full closure," Burnett said.

"We are planning that this is a temporary closure, and there's still considerable resources at Minto that, in the right copper price environment, could be mined."

Burnett says there doesn't seem to be a drop in the global demand for copper, and fluctuating commodity prices may simply reflect "a period of general trade global uncertainty." 

She says any development or blasting in the Minto mine's underground operations were to stop Thursday. Stockpiled ore will be milled over the next few weeks, before the mine is effectively moth-balled.

'I'm not shocked'

Stuart Harris, who lives in nearby Carmacks, Yukon, said he found out on Thursday morning that he was being laid off.

"Literally, a half an hour ago," he told CBC. "No notice, basically."

Still, Harris was not totally surprised. He's been in the mining business for 25 years and spent the last six working at Minto. He says he could see the writing on the wall.

"If you're used to mining, and you see certain things transpire, you can get an idea that things might be on shaky ground, sure," he said. "I'm not shocked about it."

He's also not too concerned.

"The Yukon right now is booming, so I'm not too worried about it at all. I already have some other stokes in the fire," he said.

"I harbour no ill will or resentment against the company, because they basically fought to keep that place open as long as they could."​

Mine would operate until at least 2020, company had said

Minto's workforce has gone up and down in size in recent years.

The company had also planned to put the mine under care and maintenance a year ago, but then changed plans and said the mine would stay active until at least 2020.

Carmacks mayor Lee Bodie said the shut down at Minto will hurt his small community, even though only a few mine workers live there.

'Anytime people can get a good job making good money, it's a boon to the community, said Carmacks mayor Lee Bodie. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

"Four or five jobs in Carmacks is a big thing — there's limited places to work, so anytime people can get a good job making good money, it's a boon to the community."

Bodie, who manages the Tatchun Centre store in Carmacks, will also miss the business that came his way when mine workers bussed up from Whitehorse would stop for snacks and supplies.

"We're always grateful for business, so we'll miss those busses coming," he said.

With files from Dave Croft

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