The Faro mine site is an abandoned lead and zinc mine located 15 km north of the Town of Faro, Yukon Territory. The minesite is currently managed by the Government of Yukon with funding from the Government of Canada. Limited details are available on the Faro Mine Remediation Project website. The Yukon Conservation Society still finds it is difficult to get answers to the following questions:
- Is the water flowing off the Faro Mine site meeting safe and acceptible standards? What is the quality of the water flowing off the site now?
- Why is it costing so much (over a quarter billion dollars has been spent on site over the past decade)? What is the rest of it going to cost?
- What is the goal of the remediation plan? Will the site ever be close to what it was before the mining began?
Faro Mine Remediation Project
The Faro Mine Remediation Project team consists of the Canadian Federal, Yukon Territorial and the Kaska First Nations governments. They have been collaborating on the development of a remediation plan for the Faro mine site. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada’s Northern Contaminated Sites Program is leading the development and finalization of the remediation plan. To learn more, visit INAC’s Northern Contaminated Sites Program. Below is a poster that they have released with background information and next steps.
The above image can be downloaded as a pdf.
What Does The Faro Mine Look Like?
The video Faro Overflight August 2015 shows what a small portion of it looks like. The Yukon Government website hosts a Faro Mine Complex Landmarks Map. Below are three features on this map (Rose Creek tailings dam, Grum Pit, and the Vangorda Pit). Both the photo's and video were taken by YCS/Lighthawk (pilot Gerry Whitley).
A second video (Faro Overflight August 2016) shows essentially the same features but in reverse order. It starts in the downstream portion of Rose Creek and proceeds upstream over the Cross Valley Pond and Dam, the Intermediate Pond and Dam, and concludes beyond the 4 km long Rose Creek Tailings Area. It is worth noting that the dull orange of the Polishing Pond has not improved over the past year.
A third video (Faro Tailings Discharge 2017) shows the Rose Creeks Tailing Area, the Intermediate Pond and Dam, the Cross Valley Pond and Dam, and then the down valley dam toe drain, which appears to be discharging brown water. This water enters Rose Creek downstream of the Faro Mine complex. It would appear contaminants from the Faro Mine complex are leaving the site and entering Rose Creek. YCS has also developed a PowerPoint slide show (11MB large) that shows many aspects of the Faro Mine (taken during a Sept 14 2017 overflight). There is another Powerpoint slide show (6.5MB large) that shows the mine conditions during a July 24 2018 oveflight.
The cost of the Faro mine cleanup is estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars and to take at least four centuries.
Faro Mine Water Test Results
It's not yet online on the official government websites, but here are the May 2017 Faro Mine water test results.
The Faro Mine Remediation Project has started putting some limited water data online (Aug 2016 to April 2017). These are on the Yukon Water Board website (here's how to access them once you're on the website).
- Click on the Waterline button, then enter as a guest. Search for QZ06-075-1 (it will show up in the Closed tab).
- Click on it, then click on the Reports tab – up to April 2017 results have been posted, with hopefully more to come.
One thing you won't find posted anywhere else are the water test results for Sept 2013 - Oct 2015. For your convenience they are posted here:
- Faro Mine Water Sampling Results - raw data only - May to Oct 2015
- Faro Mine Water Sampling Results - Dec 2014 to April 2015
- Faro Mine Water Sampling Results - May 2014 to Nov 2014
- Faro Mine Water Sampling Results - Sept 2013 to April 2014
Here is a map showing the location of the water sampling sites. It is taken from Investigations of Predictions for Acidic Drainage at the Vangorda Plateau, Faro Mine Complex (Faro, YT), MEND Report 1.70.1
Water test results prior to Sept 2013 do not appear to be available.
There’s an Environment Canada site that lists off-site water monitoring data (2008 to 2016, 2017 data coming soon) from a station about 10km downstream of the Faro Mine on Rose Creek. You can download site variable data (scroll down to see the button, or click here). Basically, Zinc concentrations increased in Rose Creek below the Faro mine in late 2013 and elevated concentrations continued until the last measurement in 2015. Concentrations exceeded the CCME guideline for aquatic life. Copper did not change during the same period. For more information about water contamination caused by mining wastes check out these YCS Infograms.
Here are some photographs taken of Rose Creek downstream of the Faro Mine complex during the first half of May, 2017. As can be seen, the colour is certainly unusual. The pictures were taken near the water sampling station R3.
YCS has received the following response from the Faro Mine Remediation Project Team regarding the above discolouration:
"...the discolouration noted is associated with elevated levels of iron, in particular precipitation of solid phase ferric hydroxide (Fe(OH)3). The phenomenon of iron migrating then precipitating downstream occurs when dissolved ferrous iron (Fe2+) is present under low oxygen conditions (often during winter/under ice) then reacts with oxygen when the stream becomes turbulent or open to the atmosphere (during freshet).
Although background levels of iron can be elevated, we believe that the ferrous iron is also seeping into, and being deposited in the stream, from the mine site through migration along the streambed under low-oxygen conditions (i.e. under winter ice or snow cover, or segregated laminar flow at the base of the stream). At the point where this water is exposed to the atmosphere or encounters oxygenated waters the Fe2+ reacts with oxygen to produce the observed precipitate.
The Faro Mine Remediation Project Team is committed to continued monitoring and reporting on water quality at the site and on the situation at X13. In addition, we are currently exploring options to implement a program in this particular area of the site this year to intercept, treat and release compliant water into Rose Creek."
Both the Globe And Mail (Jan 2017) and the National Post (Dec 2016) ran recent articles about the abandoned Faro mine. YCS submitted an op-ed to the Yukon News that summarized our interpretation of recent water test results. Here is a recent (June 2017) Yukon News article on the possible remediation plans, upcoming community meetings and other recent events.
Faro Mine Briefing Notes from Yukon Conservation Society January 2016
Faro Mine Water Sampling Results - raw data only- May to Oct 2015
Faro Mine Water Sampling Results - Dec 2014 to April 2015
Faro Mine Water Sampling Results - May 2014 to Nov 2014
Faro Mine Water Sampling Results - Sept 2013 to April 2014