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Yukon mine halts operations after system failure, says infrastructure damaged

A refiner pours bars of gold at a mine in Canada on Wednesday, August 24, 2011. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick) A refiner pours bars of gold at a mine in Canada on Wednesday, August 24, 2011. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
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Work has been temporarily stopped at a mine in central Yukon after what the company says was a failure of its system that uses chemicals to help extract gold.

Victoria Gold said in a statement Monday that its heap leach pad at the Eagle Gold Mine near Mayo experienced a failure, causing some damage to infrastructure and that "a portion of the failure has left containment."

Heap leaching uses chemicals to percolate through crushed ore, allowing it to extract gold.

A technical report on the company's website says gold at the Eagle Gold Mine is being leached with a cyanide solution.

A statement from the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, whose traditional territory includes the mine site, said it is concerned about the "potentially significant and far-reaching environmental impacts, particularly to surrounding waters, fish and wildlife."

The First Nation said early reports appear to indicate that the "significant" heap leach failure caused a landslide near the facility and gold recovery plant.

"This is a deeply serious incident and we are monitoring it closely, with our staff on the ground and with our partners in public government," Chief Dawna Hope said in the statement.

"Our first priority is to minimize the impacts on our lands, waters and wildlife, as well as on (the First Nation) and any other affected First Nations. We will then seek to understand how and why this occurred."

Victoria Gold said no one was injured, and staff and management continue to assess the situation and gather information.

The First Nation said it is in contact with both the mining company and the Yukon government.

John Thompson, a spokesman for the Yukon Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, said in a statement that territorial natural resource officers will be investigating.

The Eagle Gold Mine poured its first gold in 2019 and the company says it's expected to produce 2.4 million ounces over an 11-year lifespan.

The mine employs approximately 500 people as well as numerous contractors and consultants, according to the company website.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2024.    

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