FARO, YUKON — The Yukon’s abandoned Faro mine is a 25-square-kilometre moonscape, where deep pits filled with millions of tonnes of toxic waste are contained by substandard dams, and mountains of rubble tower in the background.
What was once the world’s largest open-pit zinc mine is one of Canada’s costliest environmental liabilities, according to the federal government, a toxic blight that has yet to be cleaned up after nearly two decades.
“We hardly talk about it, but Faro is a sleeping giant. The amount of money we’re spending is astronomical,” said Lewis Rifkind, who has kept an eye on the Faro project for years as part of the Yukon Conservation Society. Government spending has served only to attempt to keep the blight at bay, but now, after 14 years, Ottawa is close to finalizing its proposed plan to clean up the site.
The enormous zinc and lead mine was abandoned in 1998 when metals prices collapsed around the world, and its owner went bankrupt, dumping one of Canada’s largest environmental liabilities into the lap of the federal government.
The effort to clean up the mine over the past 18 years has become a symbol of waste and bungling for frustrated residents in the Yukon.
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