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Ex-Yukon Gold star fined $145,000 for not cleaning up placer operation

Ken Foy, 44, pleaded guilty to four charges related to his placer mining operation outside of Dawson

A former star of the reality television series Yukon Gold was fined a total of $145,000 in Whitehorse court Oct. 5 for failing to properly clean up his placer mining operation outside of Dawson City.

Ken Foy, a 44-year-old resident of British Columbia, pleaded guilty to three charges under the Placer Mining Act and one charge under the Environment Act in early June related to a placer mining operation he ran from 2012 to 2014 along Moose Creek. The charges, laid in 2015, were for failing to leave all disturbed areas in a condition conducive to revegetation, failing to stabilize the disturbed areas, failing to remove materials from the site and contravening conditions of his permit.

Judge Peter Chisholm approved fines of $20,000 each for the Placer Mining Act charges, the maximum amount allowable, and $85,000 for the Environment Act charge. The fines were proposed in a joint submission by Crown prosecutor Julie Desbrisay and Foy’s lawyer Mike Reynolds.

Reading from the agreed statement of facts, Desbrisay said that Foy’s operation spanned 26 claims, making up an area four kilometres long and 610 metres wide, and involved excavating gravel, running it through two sluice plants and depositing the tailings in piles.

The piles, which Foy did not remove, ran the length of the area and were 75 to 100 metres wide, Desbrisay said, and he also left unusable vehicles, dilapidated buildings and a “bone yard” on site. The bone yard, which was essentially a dump, contained strewn and partially-buried waste including five-gallon buckets, 45-gallon drums, wooden pallets, machine parts and scrap wood.

Foy’s failure to properly restore the area also created the risk of land eroding into the creek and filling it with sediment, Desbrisay said, and the government would have to spend “hundreds of thousands, potentially up to a million” dollars to clean up the area.

“This is in the mid-to-high range of culpability, in that it was neither an accident nor an innocent mistake,” Desbrisay said, noting that Foy was given the opportunity to do cleanup work on the area over the summer but didn’t.

Desbrisay said giving the maximum fine for the Placer Mining Act charges was “reasonable” considering the amount of waste left behind and the costs for the cleanup, which would involve examining the soil for contaminants and then sorting and disposing of everything appropriately. The sentence also “sends a message to other operators in the territory that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated,” she added.

The Crown stayed four other charges against Foy.

In his address to the court, Reynolds said Foy has shown remorse for what happened, travelling to Whitehorse throughout the legal proceedings even when he wasn’t required to because he wanted to be a part of making things right again.

Foy, originally from Saskatchewan, entered the “family business” of placer mining in Dawson immediately after finishing high school, Reynolds said, and had a “fairly successful” year at the Moose Creek operation in 2012. However, the next year didn’t go well and Foy failed to satisfy the investment contract, leading to the investor seizing equipment from the site. Foy ultimately failed to remediate the area before his authorizations expired in 2014 and again following a reminder from the government in 2015.

“Unfortunately … Mr. Foy was certainly the author of his own demise,” Reynolds said, adding that Foy has had trouble trying to find work in the two years since he was charged. The work he has found, Reynolds said, “isn’t what it used to be,” and the pay is “not at a level” where Foy was able to meet his family’s needs and also finance a cleanup over the summer.

In a tearful apology following the Crown and defence’s submissions, Foy said he takes “full responsibility” for his actions.

“Even though I made bad choices, I would hope that you take into consideration that my intentions were good for everyone involved,” Foy said in a shaky, unsteady voice, adding that he’d been part of the Dawson mining community for 26 years.

“I will demand more of myself in the future, if I decide to work in the (mining) industry again.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com