WHITEHORSE — More than $350 million of taxpayer dollars in the past two decades — over a quarter billion dollars in the past decade alone — has been spent to clean up the abandoned Faro mine site, a moonscape of waste rock and mustard yellow ponds in the mountains of south-central Yukon.
But, according to the Treasury Board of Canada’s annual reports posted online, nothing has been remediated: Zero. Zip. Nadda. “Actual cubic metres remediated: zero; actual hectares remediated: zero; actual tonnes remediated: zero.”
Off limits and out of sight — overlooking the Pelly River Valley on the territory of the Ross River Dena First Nations — the 2,500-hectare Faro mine property is one of Canada’s largest contaminated sites. And one of its costliest secrets. Few outside of the North have paid attention to this toxic mess. And, managed by several layers of government since the mine was abandoned in 1998, accountability appears astonishingly absent.
“The biggest problem has been figuring out what to do,” said Lou Spagnuolo, the Vancouver-based Faro mine remediation project director for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), which has the lead on the mine clean-up, and is also working with the Yukon government and affected First Nations communities.
Faro Mine began operations in 1969, and was once the world’s largest lead-zinc mine and the Yukon’s largest employer. The company’s permit simply required a $100,000 security deposit, and that it “dispose of its mill tailings in a good and miner-like fashion.”
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