Faro Mine (Remediation Planning Complete)

Faro Mine

Faro Mine.

The Faro Mine is one of the largest and most complex contaminated sites in the country. Located in the southcentral Yukon close to the Town of Faro, it was an open-pit lead-zinc mine from 1969 until it went into interim receivership in 1998. The site covers approximately 2500 hectares and includes 70 million tonnes of tailings and 320 million tonnes of waste rock. Both the tailings and waste rock contain high levels of heavy metals that could leach into the environment in the absence of remediation. As such, there are significant long-term environmental risks associated with the site. A care and maintenance regime, including collection and treatment of contaminated water as well as general maintenance and site security, is currently in place on the site.

The Faro Mine is one of seven Type II sites identified under the 2003 Canada Yukon Devolution Transfer Agreement. As such, the Governments of Canada and the Yukon, along with affected First Nations have worked cooperatively through a joint Oversight Committee to develop a site closure and remediation plan. Development of this plan was led by a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, scientists and First Nations, and informed by hundreds of technical studies, as well as consultations with community members of affected First Nations and the Town of Faro. An Independent Peer Review Panel also performed a comprehensive review of remediation options identified. The project reached a major milestone in early 2009 when the closure plan was confirmed by the Oversight Committee.

The plan emphasizes stabilizing contaminants, rather than removing them from the site. Key features include upgrading dams to ensure tailings stay in place, re-sloping waste rock, installing engineered soil covers over approximately 320 million tonnes of tailings and waste rock, upgrading stream diversions, and installing state-of-the-art water collection and treatment systems.

The plan is now moving towards its regulatory phase under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA). Once all regulatory approvals have been received implementation of the plan will begin. It is anticipated that the construction phase will take up to 15 years followed by a 20-25 year adaptation phase involving testing, monitoring and any needed improvements to site covers, structures, collection and treatment systems.

Implementation of the plan will reduce the total liability associated with the site. However, the site will require ongoing monitoring, and as such, the federal government will retain some residual financial responsibility for the site in perpetuity.