The average annual temperature has already risen by 3°C in the past fifty years, introducing risks and vulnerabilities associated with shifting shoulder seasons, fall freeze-up occurring later and spring thaw earlier, permafrost degradation, changes in precipitation, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Information on understanding the risks these changes have on the mining industry were derived from key informant interviews with mine professionals and document analysis. A semi-structured interview guide was employed, and questions were open-ended to allow respondents to describe their experiences and actions from their perspectives and in terms relevant to their expertise. The interview guide was organized around the themes of vulnerability (exposure-sensitivity and adaptive capacity) and adaptation to climate change. The changing conditions have been documented as exacerbating existing vulnerability in the mining industry, particularly surrounding implications for transportation networks, infrastructure, hydrology and operations. This study demonstrates the different impacts and vulnerabilities associated with different stages of a mine’s lifecycle and the types of responses that have been taken.
In response to the increasing vulnerability of the Yukon’s mining industry, this report captures different examples of how the industry had started to adapt to climate change in 2014. For the mining industry in the Yukon, dealing with a rugged landscape and climate extremes has always been a costly part of “doing business”. Historically the industry adapted to known climate extremes, through engineering response, by adjusting operations in concert with the annual seasonal cycle, and through development of flexible but robust transport systems. The symptoms of a changing climate in the Yukon however, have recently been manifest in increased precipitation, permafrost degradation, increased incidence of extreme events, and shifting seasons. Consequent events such as flooding and soil liquefaction have the potential to add to the costs of mining by disrupting mine operations and transportation. In response, this research examines climate change vulnerability and adaptation in three stages in the life of a mine, (i) inception and planning, (ii) operating, and (iii) post-closure (or remediation and restoration) through case studies located throughout the Yukon. The report covers four different mine sites adapting to climate change providing insights on mechanisms to enhance the competitiveness and adaptive capacity of the mining sector in a changing climate.