A few weeks ago, I asked a question of the Yukon Government about the Ketza River mine property near Ross River. Earlier this summer, Veris Gold, the company that owns the project filed for bankruptcy protection. On October 3, the company issued a news release saying that it would be cooperating with the Yukon government to address maintenance work required at the Ketza River project. This news was only announced by the company and not by the Yukon government. The work consists of a number of maintenance projects, including work on access road bridges and will be funded from a $3-million security fund that the company had established for reclamation. The government’s decision to spend reclamation dollars on road and bridge maintenance begs the question: How will the actual reclamation work be funded?
This money was supposed to be used to close the mine and not finance maintenance work. The Minister for Energy, Mines, and Resources says that the reclamation money is being used to bring this project into compliance. The property has been without a water licence since 2009. This looks like a dangerous precedent to set, using money intended for reclamation on upgrading the Ketza mine and bridges. That money is supposed to be set aside to be used when a mine is permanently closed.
This week we have learned that the contract for this work, worth $2.8 million, was awarded without competition. The Yukon Party government has told Yukoners that it will maintain a level playing field, support businesses and ensure that government funding or government actions do not foster unfair competition within the business community. Sole sourcing a contract is hardly a fair playing field. It is disappointing to see a government bypass the competitive bidding process and simply award this contract without competition. There are plenty of local companies who would have been qualified to do this work, but were never given the opportunity to bid.
The government’s actions on this project raise a series of questions, but one thing remains uncertain; with the company in bankruptcy protection and the remediation security spent, where will funding come from to permanently close the site?
Leader, Yukon Liberal Party
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