Placer miner fined total of $20,000 for sluicing straight into creek

A placer mining operation that didn’t use a settling pond and let sediment flow directly into a stream received a $20,000 fine May 9.

A placer mining operation that didn’t use a settling pond and let sediment flow directly into a stream received a $20,000 fine May 9.

Cameron Johnson and No Name Resources Inc. pleaded guilty to Water Act charges in Yukon territorial court in Dawson City.

Johnson is the sole director of No Name Resources who is still mining. Johnson was fined $5,000 and his company $15,000.

On Sept. 24, 2015 natural resources officer Johnny Nunan was flying over 10 Mile Creek when he noticed a discolouration in a channel spilling into the creek, according to a statement of fact read in court.

Johnson was at the time operating a small placer mining operation in Donovan Creek, a tributary of 10 Mile Creek, with his family.

“Upon landing, Nunan observed Johnson wasn’t making use of the settling pond for sluice water but instead sluicing directly into Donovan Creek,” prosecutor Megan Seiling told the court.

Nunan thought the level of settled solids in the water exceeded the terms of Johnson’s water licence and he took samples upstream and downstream from the operation.

While the terms of the licence allowed for a maximum of two millilitres of settled solids per litre of water, samples right below the sluice came in at 60 to 70 ml, and samples 100 m downstream from the operation came in at 6.6 mL. Samples taken upstream showed levels of settled solid of less than 0.1 ml per litre of water.

“Johnson claims that earlier in the day a dam he had constructed upstream from sluice breached and flooded his settlement pond,” Seiling said. “He shut down his operation until he had a system in place to manage the effluent. He admits he was struggling to get the system for settling in place but starting mining again.”

A second breach resulted in even more water with a high level of settled solids flowing into Donovan Creek.

The sediments are considered waste under the Water Act.

Seiling said Johnson was cooperative during the investigation and gave a statement at first request in which he admitted the offences.

Because he was self-represented, Johnson pleaded not guilty at first to have time to understand the process, she said. While he is remorseful, Seiling also noted that the effluent levels from the samples were high and justified the fine the Crown sought.

“It’s important that fines imposed for these types of breaches don’t simply become the cost of doing business and for that reason the fine isn’t simply to be slap on wrist,” she said.

The fine was a joint submission proposed by Johnson and Seiling. Johnson told judge Karen Ruddy that the income from operation supported his entire family.

On average his placer mining operation brings in $60,000 after bills are paid, he said.

Ruddy gave him 15 months to pay the fine and decided to waive the 15 per cent surcharge usually imposed on fines.

“Fines are what’s sending the most important message,” Ruddy said. “I don’t want it to be crippling.”

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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