More than gold: Goldcorp’s coffee mine project in the Yukon

The Yukon is special. You can ask anyone who has experienced it first-hand and they will tell you the same, it has a magical quality that only the Northern Lights, midnight sun, and abundant wilderness can bring. The Yukon’s history is rich with First Nations cultures, exploration, and adventure, and as such, most Canadians would likely associate the Yukon with the Gold Rush in some way. Back then, it was a treacherous journey through unmapped land with nothing but a pan and a pix axe. Today, gold mining has evolved to a state-of-the-art industry that includes a social, economic, and environmental focus above and beyond the act of exploring for gold. Goldcorp’s Coffee Mine Project is a prime example of what responsible mining can and will look like, even in the early stages of the mine life cycle. 

About the Coffee Mine Project

Located approximately 130-kilometres south of the city of Dawson, the Coffee Mine Project is a proposed open-pit and heap-leach development project that has recently completed the adequacy review phase of the permitting process with YESAB (Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board). The property is remote, located on a ridgetop downstream of Coffee Creek along the Yukon River, and is currently accessible by plane or barge only. Road access to the Coffee Mine Project, known as the proposed Northern Access Route, will be an all-season road from Dawson City to the project site following the existing Hunker and Sulphur road network with crossings at the Stewart and Yukon Rivers by barge in the summer and ice road in the winter. Mine life begins with two-and-a-half years of construction, followed by 10 to 12 years of operational mine life, and then finally by 10 years of reclamation and closure. Preliminary estimates predict 60-million tonnes of mined ore over the life of the project. Currently, the project is in the advanced exploration stage of development.

Environmental stewardship

Goldcorp is well known in the industry as a company that takes the environment very seriously. The company is committed to doing it right, as signatories on multiple global environmental initiatives (e.g. International Cyanide Management Code, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals), and with ambitious company endeavours such as Towards Zero Water and #DisruptMining changing the way we view conventional mining, it’s no surprise that the Coffee Mine Project is part of these initiatives.

“The land of the Yukon is unique, and requires special care by those working on it – at every stage of the mining life cycle,” says Chris Cormier, mine general manager at the Coffee Mine Project, who has extensive experience in sustainability, mine closure, and reclamation.

The way Goldcorp’s mines are planned is not a cookie-cutter process, but instead mines are designed to fit their unique environments while minimizing the impact on their surroundings. The Coffee Mine Project does not include a wet-tailings operation for example, opting for the heap-leach method, which is more water efficient.

A lot of thought is going into water management at Coffee in alignment with Goldcorp’s Towards Zero Water initiative, as well as working closely with Coffee’s First Nations partners to understand water management priorities. Additionally, an intensive wildlife monitoring program is currently being developed for important species such as bears, moose, and caribou.

“We want to leave a positive, lasting impression in the Yukon,” adds Cormier.

First Nations and community engagement

One of the most important aspects of mining is local community involvement by engaging First Nations and community partners throughout project development, operation, and closure. The Coffee Mine Project has successfully involved local stakeholders, First Nations, and regulators continuously through the project’s development to date and engagement will be ongoing. Also, as part of Goldcorp’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, of the 68 employees currently working at Coffee, 34 per cent are female, 18 per cent are First Nation, and 70 per cent are Yukon residents. Projects in First Nations career development and vocational training are also in the works, including a partnership with Yukon College to support local training and career development opportunities.

Goldcorp has been working collaboratively with their First Nations partners in the initial stages of mine development, and signed a collaboration agreement with Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in in April of this year. This milestone event sets the stage for long-term partnerships between Goldcorp and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in through the life of the Coffee Mine Project. 

“The collaboration agreement with Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in is an important milestone, and we are focused on delivering economic opportunities for all Yukoners at each stage of the project,” says Cormier.

Following the signing of the agreement, Goldcorp was a proud Shär Cho sponsor of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Moosehide Gathering in July. The biannual gathering celebrates Hän and Indigenous language and culture through workshops, guest speakers, dancing, drumming, singing, and nightly feasts. The gathering saw over 2,000 people join in the festivities which were held in Moosehide Village, three kilometres from Dawson City, including several volunteers from Coffee. 

“Our Whitehorse-based team has been working very closely with First Nations and community partners to design a socially and environmentally responsible project,” adds Cormier.

Just as the Yukon is more than a place, it is an experience made up of the people, cultures, and landscapes that make it special, Goldcorp’s Coffee Mine Project is more than gold. The project aims to create sustainable value for local communities and the environment, take care of precious water ways, work with our First Nations partners, and offer opportunities for Yukoners to build their careers with a safe, productive, and responsible mining company.

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