In 1953, prospectors staked a claim that would eventually become the Faro Mine. Cyprus Anvil Mining officially opened the Faro Mine in 1969, and it quickly became one of the largest employers in the territory. The Faro Mine would eventually become the largest zinc-lead mine in Canada, forming more than 30% of the economy of Yukon.
Cyprus Anvil Mining was forced to shut down operations in 1984 and the mine changed hands a few times in the years that followed. Mining continued into the mid-1990s, but because of world metal prices, the new owner Curragh Resources, went bankrupt. Anvil Range Mining re-opened the mine in 1995 and ran it until 1997. The mine closed permanently after nearly 30 years of mining when it was abandoned in 1998.
The Faro Mine Site is located within the traditional lands of the Kaska Nations, and upstream of the Selkirk First Nation. Indigenous people used the land of the Faro Mine Site and surrounding area well before the mine existed and will continue to use the land long after remediation has taken place.
As well as being a special place for a variety of animals that lived there, Tse Zul was also special for the unique rocks found there. In fact, even the name Tse Zul is a reference to the “Hollow Rock” on the mountain. Al Kulan got to know some of the local people that lived in the area. In a kind and welcoming gesture, three Ross River Dena – Dena Cho, Joe Ladue, and Arthur John Sr. – showed this prospector some of the special rocks at Tse Zul that eventually led to the Cyprus Anvil Mine. For their part, the three Dena men received no recognition or benefits from the mine.
The importance of the Tse Zul area to Ross River Dena was exemplified by the significant use of the area. At least eight extended families lived here. There were three permanent centres of habitation in the area, and seasonal encampments were scattered everywhere. The area was also a major transportation hub, laced by a network of trails. A number of sacred areas are also found here, signifying a deep reverence to the area, and a long history of occupation. At least 26 archaeological sites found in the area provide further physical evidence of the importance of this place to the Ross River Dena.
The development of the Faro Mine and its infrastructure was one of the most debilitating events in the Ross River area, causing significant environmental and social impacts. Heavy metal leaching, acid rock drainage, and airborne pollutants poisoned the region. This, combined with habitat destruction, displacement of animals, and an invasion of outside hunters, resulted in declines of most fish and wildlife species. A population of wintering caribou disappeared, as did lake trout and grayling from a number of creeks. The Ross River Dena were displaced, further depriving them of the bush economy. The traumas that resulted were profound. Indeed, the social and environmental impacts of Faro have been disastrous to the Ross River Dena.
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