Yukon First Nation calls to shut down all mining activity on their land following Eagle mine slide

A view of the heap leach facility at Victoria Gold's Eagle mine north of Mayo, Yukon. (Victoria Gold - image credit)
A view of the heap leach facility at Victoria Gold's Eagle mine north of Mayo, Yukon. (Victoria Gold - image credit)

A Yukon First Nation is calling for a "urgent" halt to all mining activities on their land in the wake of a slide at the Eagle gold mine near Mayo.

Victoria Gold's Eagle mine experienced a "significant" slide last week that damaged infrastructure, halted operations and released cyanide into the environment. It isn't clear yet if the cyanide has impacted groundwater.

In a statement released Wednesday, Na-Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation said they also want an independent investigation and review into what they call "the region's most recent and potentially catastrophic mining failure."

"We have been sounding the alarm for decades on the need for sustainable development and responsible mining. The integrity of our lands, people and ecosystems are our top priority," Chief Dawna Hope said in the release.

The First Nation also called for a land-use plan that "limits development and includes rigorous oversight and enforcement of mining and industrial operations" on their land.

"We will pursue every available avenue, including legal options, to protect and preserve our rights and to ensure that this environmental catastrophe is addressed and the lands and waters of our territory are safe for the fish, wildlife, and people that have relied on them for generations."

Water samples back 

John Streicker, the territory's energy, mines and resources minister, said the government is getting "daily updates" from the mine and that surface water at the slide site was now "contained."

When asked how much material had escaped containment during the slide, Streicker said he didn't have the numbers off the top of his head. He also said it's still not known how the slide started.

"And I don't think it's just here in the Yukon. I think around the world, people are going to look at this to try and understand what happened here," he said.

"I'm so glad that people didn't die. But yeah, we need to figure out what happened in the fullness of time so that we can make sure that we're not putting Yukoners and workers at risk."

Water sampling was done on the mine site from any pools that had collected, as well as from nearby Haggart Creek. Those samples were then sent to Burnaby, B.C., for analysis as that can't be done in the territory.

Streicker said those samples have since come back.

"I know ... they've got the results and they're just working through them," he said.

Streicker said a technical briefing on the results is expected to be held Thursday.