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Letter: Victoria Gold landslide prompts call for action

Letter: Victoria Gold landslide prompts call for action
Letter: Victoria Gold landslide prompts call for action

The catastrophic collapse of a cyanide leaching platform at a gold mine in Victoria is a disaster for the Yukon, for its people, and potentially for the waterways and wildlife in the affected area.

The fact that there were no fatalities, unlike the failure of another leak site in Çöpler, Turkey, is due to luck.

Given the severity of the Victoria Gold collapse, the environmental impact is unlikely to be so fortunate. The creeks, groundwater and wildlife are all at risk, as is everyone who relies on the water.

And then there are the economic consequences: loss of income for the Yukon, for the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, for the workers and suppliers, large and small. Everyone will feel the burden of this collapse.

The focus should now be on measures to stabilise the site, determine whether cyanide and/or heavy metals have been released and limit damage, particularly to our waterways.

While stricter technical requirements and more rigorous inspections could have prevented this disaster, the fact that it occurred should lead to faster action and change.

First, Yukon can never again allow the use of open cyanide heap leach pads. This is particularly relevant because the as-yet-unapproved Casino project proposes to use an even larger heap leap pad, similar to the one that failed at Victoria Gold. We cannot allow this to happen again.

Secondly, before a new mine is licensed in the future, baseline water data must be collected over a number of years to measure the impact of mining on our waterways.

Third, Yukon must pass the new minerals legislation during the fall session of the legislature.

With its promise to address compliance, monitoring and enforcement (with sanctions and deterrence), public accountability and transparency, government-First Nations cooperation, and more realistic financial assurances and royalties — to name just a few of the proposed changes — this legislation is long overdue. Further delay of this important legislation and its intent to bring Yukon’s mining laws into the 21st century would be unreasonable and, in light of Yukon’s recent mining history, a parody.

Although legislation alone cannot prevent disasters, it can slightly reduce the likelihood of them occurring, clarify the obligations of parties involved, particularly with regard to the environment, provide more realistic financial returns and provide more credible assurances that safety and clean-up obligations will be met.

Donald J. Roberts

Chairman, Yukoners Concerned