A tailings tour

It’s one of the youngest towns in Canada, but that isn’t stopping Faro, population 400, from celebrating its short history.

It’s one of the youngest towns in Canada, but that isn’t stopping Faro, population 400, from celebrating its short history.

Built by a mining company in 1969 — and named after a gambling card game — the community in central-southeast Yukon is marking its 40th anniversary on July 1-5 with tours of the giant mine nearby that closed over a decade ago.

“I think that will be a big draw for Yukoners,” says Daniel Steiner, the town’s community development and grants co-ordinator. The Faro mine was at one time the largest open-pit lead/zinc mine in the world and the pillar of the Yukon economy. It closed in 1998 when the Anvil Range Mining Corp. went bankrupt.

Participants on the free guided tours will see 270 million tonnes of waste rock piled 200 to 300 metres high and tailings that stretch four kilometres long, says Steiner. There’s also the huge pit that the rock came out of, hundreds of metres deep and partly filled with water.“It is quite spectacular,” Steiner says of the mine complex. “It’s as if you’re walking on the moon.”

Earlier this year the territorial government announced details of a reclamation project that will cost half a billion dollars and include covering the tailings with vegetation and treating water on the site for hundreds of years. The massive scale of the effort, set to begin in about three years, is unique in the Yukon and probably in Canada, says Steiner.

“A big part of the motivation behind the mine tours is to educate the public on the plan to clean up the site,” he says.

These days Faro, which once had 2,500 residents, relies on tourism for economic growth. Surrounded by wilderness, with lakes, rivers and mountains, it bills itself as a year-round outdoors playground.

“Ecotourism is growing, local B&Bs are doing well, and we’re capitalizing on our strengths, which is abundant wildlife and beautiful surroundings,” says Steiner. Besides the mine tours, the anniversary events will include dances, a bison burger barbecue, a golf tournament, a guided hike with a naturalist, and arts and crafts demonstrations. Steiner insists the town isn’t too young to celebrate itself. “Absolutely not. We certainly know how to have a good time up here, and we’ll find any excuse to have a party.”

Good to know
• Faro, a four-hour drive northeast of Whitehorse, is located amid the mountains of the Yukon’s Tintina Valley.

• See www.faroyukon.ca.

 
 
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