Chevron’s messy legacy in the Peel

Warped by time and discoloured by fire, a monster fuel storage tank sits exactly where its steel plates were welded into place nearly 50 years ago. It should be removed and the site cleaned up.


Warped by time and discoloured by fire, a monster fuel storage tank sits exactly where its steel plates were welded into place nearly 50 years ago.

It should be removed and the site cleaned up. But, despite assurances from government and industry officials, there are still questions about whether this will happen. And when.

Erected by the Standard Oil Company of California – now known as Chevron – following its 1961 discovery of iron ore near the Snake River, the tank is but one remnant of that long-ago mineral play along the Yukon and Northwest Territories border.

The tank is empty now, but at the height of the company’s exploration activity in 1963-64, it stored as much as 285,000 litres of diesel and aviation fuel that was used to power bulldozers, drill rigs, helicopters and airplanes.

The once-glimmering tank, built along with a 1.3-kilometre gravel airstrip, also served as a beacon to pilots ferrying workers and supplies from Whitehorse. The strip was linked to the 45-person base camp by a 14-kilometre road up what was unofficially known as Iron Creek.

On this muggy July day, the massive industrial monument looks sorely out of place.

Surrounded by boreal greenery that carpets the landscape beneath the rugged peaks of Mount Corp, its most recent pilgrims appear to have been of the four-legged, furry variety.

Beside the tank, bears have carved a wallowing hole in the dark soil, drenched with fuel that’s leaked from a ground-level valve. Thin strands of grizzly hair cling tenuously to a row of nuts and bolts holding the side panels together.

Dozens of old, rusty 45-gallon fuel drums – some full, some empty, some a little of both – lie scattered in nearby piles, also dotted with bear diggings.

Across a murky pond, littered with miscellaneous garbage, the airstrip that once proudly received DC3s is mostly overgrown with trees and almost unrecognizable.

The old radio shack and tower have since been pressed into service by the local hunting company.

Formally designated as a “contaminated site” in the early 1990s, apart from two federally funded remediation studies, no actual cleanup work has ever been carried out.

The airstrip site doesn’t sit on Chevron’s current block of iron leases – it begins a few kilometres to the east and covers hundreds of acres of land on both sides of the border.

And therein lies the ambiguity about the proposed remediation work.

The company and the territorial government have told local media Chevron will clean up its mess, but there has been some confusion about just which mess they are referring to.

In addition to the airstrip site, a recent Yukon government inspection has turned up five other small sites on Chevron’s existing leases. Old fuel containers, camp material, like lumber, and drilling mud are among the other castoffs.

Chevron applied to renew its 525 Yukon leases last September, even though they don’t expire until 2013-14.

Now it’s up to the Yukon government to decide whether to grant the renewal, or wait until the company has cleaned up the area before signing the ground away for another 21 years.

The iron leases are located in an area slated for the highest level of wilderness protection under the proposed Peel Watershed land-use plan.

Chevron, one of the largest oil companies in North America, also holds oil/gas interests in the western part of the watershed, near the Dempster Highway.

Mary Walden is a Yukon writer and journalist. Her partner Blaine runs Walden’s Guiding and Outfitting in the Peel Wateshed. You’ll find more photos and stories of the Peel on her blog at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Togo member Katie Moen sits in a sled behind a snowmobile for the ride from the airport to Chief Zzeh Gittlit School. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Coming together: How Old Crow became one of the first communities in the world to be fully vaccinated

Team Togo and Team Balto assembled with a mission to not waste a single dose of vaccine

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. If council moves forward with bylaw changes, eating and drinking establishments could set up pop-up patios in on-street parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Patios may be popping up in Whitehorse this summer

City considers program for downtown restaurants and bars

The Yukon Coroner's Service has confirmed the death of a skateboarder found injured on Hamilton Boulevard on May 2. Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News
Whitehorse man dies in skateboarding accident

Coroner urges the use of helmets, protective gear, while skateboarding.

The new Yukon Liberal caucus poses for a photo during the swearing-in ceremony held on May 3. (Yukon Government/Submitted)
Liberal cabinet sworn in at legislature before house resumes on May 11

Newly elected MLA Jeremy Harper has been nominated as speaker.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s baby bison, born April 22, mingles with the herd on April 29. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Yukon Wildlife Preserves welcomes two bison calves

A bison calf was the first 2021 baby born at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

A map provided by the Yukon government shows the location of unpermitted logging leading to a $2,500 fine. (Courtesy/Yukon government)
Man fined $2,500 for felling trees near Beaver Creek

The incident was investigated by natural resource officers and brought to court.

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Most Read