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A view from above: this exploration camp at the Coffee Gold project is set up at a high altitude. Goldcorp has high hopes for finding almost 2 million ounces of gold at the property. (Philippe Morin/CBC) Leaders from Yukon’s Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation got a tour of Goldcorp’s Coffee Gold project near Dawson City this week — and so far, they like what they’ve seen.

The exploration camp at Coffee Creek, about 130 kilometres south of Dawson City, is a busy place these days, with crews already working in shifts 24-hours a day.

In a few years, it could be even busier — Goldcorp is proposing to open a large-scale gold mine by 2021, employing hundreds of people. The project is still under review by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB).

The Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation is now on board with the project. Last April, it signed a "collaboration agreement" with Goldcorp, which includes a number of benefits for the First Nation — such as jobs, contracts, and training for First Nation citizens.

It also outlines environmental protection commitments. ‘First and foremost we want to ensure that the project is environmentally sustainable,’ says Tr’ondek Hwech’in Chief Roberta Joseph. The First Nation has lent its support to the project and Joseph says concerns about water are being heard. (Philippe Morin/CBC) Earlier, the First Nation had complained that Goldcorp was ignoring its concerns , and was trying to push the project forward too quickly.

Now, Chief Roberta Joseph says she’s confident Goldcorp is hearing their concerns.

"One of the different things about this project is that it’s more environmentally sustainable in terms of not having a tailings pond," said Joseph.

"Having new and innovative projects like this provides for a much better environment in the end." ‘Environmentally sustainable’

One selling point has been that Coffee Gold will not create toxic tailings ponds, as it will use something called a heap leach pad — where gold is separated from ore by means of cyanide.

Goldcorp describes this process as a "closed loop" system, which has assuaged the First Nations’ concerns about local rivers. This large-wheeled ‘Sherp’ can navigate both land and water. It’s manufactured in Ukraine and Goldcorp has purchased one to serve as a rescue vehicle at the exploration camp. (Philippe Morin/CBC) Coffee Gold’s reclamation is also scheduled to begin halfway through the mine’s lifetime with different sections mined then cleaned up as production continues.

"First and foremost, we want to make sure the project is environmentally sustainable," Joseph said.

"And we need to have a clear understanding of the environmental, cultural and heritage impacts of the project, ensuring that we have a good understanding of it, to ensure we’re making good informed decisions." Touring the exploration site

On Tuesday, Goldcorp opened its exploration site to local media and the leadership of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in.

Reporters were flown to Dawson City, where Chief Joseph and a representative of the First Nation’s renewable resource council got on board. The group then flew to Coffee Creek in a chartered plane (CBC paid for a spot on the plane). Some temporary structures have been moved into place at the Coffee Gold property, overlooking fall colours this time of year. (Philippe Morin/CBC) The mining company then took people in a helicopter to the site of gold deposits where exploration work is happening.

One on-site demonstration was of a device called a Mud Hen, a stack of filters used to deal with construction or mining waste. The units cost about $20,000 each and can separate muddy or grey water into something far more manageable after it’s been used in cutting rock.

"I do like the commitment […]

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