New life for Yukon's Minto Mine as closure plans put on hold

Yukon's only operating mine will stay active until at least 2020, according to Capstone Mining.

The company's plan was to put its Minto Mine into care and maintenance mode in December of this year, but that plan has been put on hold. Capstone now says it will keep mining for several more years.

"We're positive going to 2020 and possibly going past that if the market holds up and metal prices stay firm," said mine manager Ron Light.

"I think it's a good news story for everybody."

Capstone has been warning of a temporary shutdown for a couple of years, as copper prices sagged. Dozens of contract workers were laid off last fall.

The price of copper has been on an upswing in recent months, with the price consistently above $2.50 US per pound since January.

A year ago, the price was hovering closer to $2.20 US per pound and even dropped as low as $1.96 US per pound, in early 2016.

'We hope to keep everybody'

Light says Capstone will now work to develop more known reserves and deposits at the mine site, 240 kilometres north of Whitehorse, near Pelly Crossing. Some of those plans may need additional permitting, he said.

Right now, there are 306 workers at the mine — 144 Minto employees and 162 contract employees (those workers laid off last fall have since been called back). Light says that's a full complement of staff and "we hope to keep everybody going right on through until 2020."

"I mean, there could be some changes, depending on the sequencing of the various mine plans, and we have to get into more detail on that," he said.

"Certainly everything is more encouraging than it was, say, a week ago."