Current Problems


First Nation in Yukon calls for halt to mining in territory

July 3, 2024

June landslide on its territory put unknown amount of cyanide into the environment.

APTN News: The Canadian Press – The First Nation of the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun says it wants an “immediate halt” of all mining activity in Yukon and is calling for an “urgent Independent Investigation and Review of the region’s most recent and potentially catastrophic mining failure,” at the Eagle mine site.

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

“There must be an independent investigation and review immediately to understand environmental impacts from this disaster.”

On June 24, Victoria Gold Corp., the company that is operating the Eagle Gold Mine north of Whitehorse and on the territory of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, halted operations after a failure of its system that uses chemicals to help extract gold.

According to Victoria Gold, its heap leach pad at the mine near Mayo experienced a failure, causing some damage to infrastructure and that “a portion of the failure has left containment.” Heap leaching uses chemicals to percolate through crushed ore, allowing it to extract gold.

A technical report on the company’s website says gold at the Eagle Gold Mine is being leached with a cyanide solution.

Officials with the Yukon government held a technical briefing for members of the media on June 28 but had few answers about what happened or the level of danger to people and the environment. Results from water testing were available on July 2 but haven’t been released yet.

The territory said it would hold another technical briefing Thursday.

“The severity of contamination from cyanide and other chemicals has not been publicly conveyed,” said a statement from Hope. “This event has implications on all life in the region, including salmon stock recovery, something so crucial that Alaska and Canada recently committed to a seven-year moratorium on salmon fishing. Cyanide contamination of the land and water has implications for spawning rivers and their tributaries and for all life in the area.”

gold mine
Victoria Gold says operations have ceased at the Eagle Gold Mine in Yukon. Map: Victoria Gold.

This isn’t the first time the mine has had issues. In January 2024, a similar landslide took place. In 2023 the company was fined $95,000 for six violations of its license after a spill in 2021 that saw nearly 20,000 litres of cyanide spilled.

“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,” said Hope.

APTN News asked the Yukon government about the concerns from the First Nation and call for a halt to mining. In an email statement, the territory doesn’t address the request for a moratorium but said it “remains committed” to working with First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun.

“Our top priority in the immediate term is safeguarding the health and wellbeing of people and the environment,” the statement said.

With files from the Canadian Press