Faro Mine Remediation Project: Yukon
Learn about the work underway to maintain and remediate the Faro Mine site.
What is the Faro Mine?
Faro Mine was once the largest open pit lead-zinc mine in the world. Today, it is the site of one of the most complex abandoned mine remediation projects in Canada. The mine spans 25 sq. km, an area roughly the size of the city of Victoria, British Columbia.
It is located in south-central Yukon, near the town of Faro, on the traditional territory of the Kaska Nations, and upstream from Selkirk First Nation. The Devolution Transfer Agreement identifies the Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation, Kaska Dena Council, and Selkirk First Nation as affected First Nations for the Faro Mine.
Processing the valuable minerals at the mine left behind 70 million tonnes of tailings and 320 million tonnes of waste rock. This waste has the potential to leach metals and acid into the surrounding land and water.
The mine was abandoned in 1998 and is currently in care and maintenance, which includes:
- monitoring water quality
- collecting and treating contaminated water
- ensuring that the water leaving the site meets environmental standards
- maintaining site infrastructure, including roads, buildings, dams and stream channels
What is the Faro Mine Remediation Project?
The Faro Mine Remediation Project is one of the most complex abandoned mine clean-up projects in Canada. It was established to prevent the contamination of nearby land and water from the former mining operation.
Risk mitigation work is on-going at the site to ensure it remains stable and secure. Care and maintenance activities continue on site to reduce the risk the site poses to the environment, as well as the health and safety of community members. On-going environmental monitoring is being conducted to track risks and determine if conditions are changing. Where monitoring identifies environmental change is occurring, adaptive management is undertaken (including putting new infrastructure in place) to prevent conditions from further impacting the environment, or health and safety of community members.
Recent adaptive management measures undertaken by the project team include:
- collection and treatment of contaminated water identified downstream of the tailings facility to protect Rose Creek, which began in 2019
- the realignment of North Fork Rose Creek which was completed in 2020 to prevent the creek from coming into contact with contaminated water on site
The highest priority issues are being addressed while the Faro Mine Remediation Project proposal proceeds through regulatory approvals.
Who is responsible for the project?
The Government of Canada funds the project and is leading the care and maintenance, site monitoring, consultation, remediation plan design and regulatory process.
First Nations, the Town of Faro and other stakeholders are consulted on an on-going basis to ensure the project incorporates their input. First Nations include the Kaska Nations (Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation and Kaska Dena Council) and Selkirk First Nation.
The remediation plan
The Faro Mine Remediation Project Team has prepared a plan to remediate the Faro Mine site. In 2005 the project team, in partnership with the Government of Yukon, the Kaska Nations, Selkirk First Nation and other affected and interested groups, established 5 critical objectives for the remediation plan:
- protect human health and safety
- protect and, to the extent practicable, restore the environment, including land, air, water, fish and wildlife
- maximize local and Yukon socio-economic benefits
- manage long-term site risk in a cost-effective manner
- return the mine site to an acceptable state of use that reflects pre-mine land use, where practicable
After many years of research, extensive professional review and consultation, a remediation approach was selected in 2009. Key features of the selected remediation approach include:
- upgrading dams to ensure tailings stay in place
- re-shaping, covering, revegetating and establishing surface drainage on waste rock and tailings
- extending and upgrading diversion channels to keep clean water away from contamination
- improving and expanding contaminated water collection systems and building a new water treatment plant
The Remediation Plan was submitted to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board in May of 2019. It continues to be reviewed by the board and stakeholders.
Key dates in the remediation project:
- 1969 to 1998: processing of minerals left behind waste rock and finely crushed particles, known as tailings
- 1998: Faro Mine is abandoned when the owner declares bankruptcy
- 2003: Devolution Transfer Agreement takes effect, Faro Mine identified as a shared responsibility between the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada
- 2005: remediation objectives are selected
- Government of Yukon takes over responsibility for care and maintenance at the site
- remediation approach is selected
- 2010: grum sulphide cell constructed with engineered covers to protect environment from contaminants
- 2011: contractor hired to work on research to help with remediation plan design
- 2013: old water treatment plant closed due to health and safety concerns
- new state-of-the-art water treatment plant in operation
- seepage collection system installed at the North Fork Rose Creek as a temporary measure to reduce zinc levels in water
- 2016: contractors hired to work on regulatory applications and design plans for urgent works and remediation
- Government of Canada takes over responsibility for care and maintenance of the site
- construction begins on North Fork Rose Creek diversion
- seepage capture system constructed near monitoring station X13
- engineering designs for the remediation plan completed to 30%
- the Remediation Plan along with its environmental and socio-economic assessment were submitted to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board to commence the review process
- completion of North Fork of Rose Creek re-alignment construction
- construction of a contact water interim measure capturing seep water that used to go into the North Fork of Rose Creek
- construction and operation of the Cross Valley Pond Water Treatment Plant
- construction and operation of the short term down valley seepage capture system
- construction and operation of the Grum Ore Transfer Pad seepage capture system
Following the successful completion of the environmental and socio-economic assessment process, an application for a water licence will be filed with the Yukon Water Board. The major construction phase is expected to begin in 2025 or 2026, once all of the designs are complete and regulatory approvals are in place.
Remediation is expected to take about 15 years to complete, followed by 20 to 25 years of testing and monitoring to make any needed improvements to the site.
Some areas of the Faro Mine site will always remain under active management and monitoring:
Consultation and engagement
A key aspect of the Faro Mine Remediation Project has been on-going consultation and engagement with Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation, Selkirk First Nation, the town of Faro and other interested parties. The project team is keeping these groups informed and involved.
- Faro Mine Remediation Project Consultation: Phase 1
- Faro Mine Remediation Project Consultation: Phase 2
- What We Heard: Faro Mine Remediation Project, summer 2017 public consultation summary
Through an on-going and respectful nation-to-nation dialogue, the Faro Mine Remediation Project will continue as a partnership with local First Nations. There is a commitment to provide training and jobs for local First Nations and other Yukoners ranging from specialized services to general labour.
Contracting and jobs
The Faro Mine interim construction manager funding agreement was awarded to Parsons, Inc in July 2018. This was an important step forward in the Faro Mine Remediation Project. Parsons is responsible for managing immediate projects at the site and ensuring that First Nation and Yukon workers and subcontractors have priority. Any of the work for the Faro Mine Remediation Project that is procured by Parsons Inc is tendered through merx.com. The Faro Mine main construction manager (MCM) should is expected be awarded in 2021.
Any of the work for the Faro Mine Remediation Project that is procured by the Government of Canada will be tendered and awarded through buyandsell.gc.ca. You can find requests for proposals or tenders by using the key words "Faro Mine" in the search field.
Faro Mine Remediation Project
415C-300 Main Street