On Sunday, Gordon Craig Tubman’s remains were discovered in a burned trailer at a Copper Haul Road quarry that should not have been occupied.
The quarry lease, issued to Doug Gonder of Norcope Enterprises, expired July 13, 2009.
But more than a year later, the 41-year-old Tubman was still living there as Gonder’s caretaker.
“I know the lease doesn’t allow for any kind of occupation to take place on a gravel pit,” Energy, Mines and Resources spokesman Ron Billingham said on Thursday. “He had a lease and licence for gravel quarry operations only; he had no permission from Yukon government to have someone live there.”
The quarry site belongs to Yukon government, but lies inside city limits, which blurs the lines of responsibility.
City bylaws may have allowed the caretaker to live onsite, said Billingham.
In fact, it was the Yukon government, as landowner, that had to give permission for an onsite resident.
It never did so.
The construction trailer was permitted, but after the fact – once it was found on the quarry site, said city planner Pat Ross.
“But (Gonder’s) operating on Yukon government land, so what’s allowed and not allowed on that site has been what was allowed under the quarry lease Yukon government had with him.”
Gonder also put in a septic bed and, when it was discovered, Yukon government’s environmental health permitted it – again, after the fact, said Ross.
The city didn’t want a caretaker living at the quarry.
“Another frustration, because there was a guy living in there, was that (Gonder) kept the TransCanada Trail open and plowed all winter,” he said.
“It was an issue for the Klondike Snowmobile Association and dogsledders, because our city parks guide says it’s a non-wheeled trail come November 1 every year.
“So there’s a beautiful trail, then along comes Doug, completely ignores the sign at Fish Lake Road junction and takes a grader down there, because, for whatever reason, he’s been allowed to establish a caretaker residence down the road.”
Energy, Mines and Resources “would not have been aware” Gonder was ploughing the road, said Billingham, who knew nothing about the septic bed either.
“He was probably just doing his thing,” he said.
“I’m not sure if he would have told anyone.”
Billingham didn’t know how often the department inspects guys “just doing their thing.
“I don’t know, exactly, what the schedule is in terms of people doing inspections on leases and gravel pits,” he said.
When Gonder’s five-year lease expired, Energy, Mines and Resources met city officials to decide whether to renew it.
Long-term planning for the area found the site was not suitable for a quarry under the Official Community Plan, said Ross.
“Basically, if he’s exhausted the material that’s up there for a quarry, he should shut it down.”
A city investigation discovered the site had been stripped of gravel.
In fact, Gonder had already gotten “a slap on the wrist” for digging up gravel beyond the quarry boundaries in land designated outdoor recreation.
“I’ve heard reports there’s still gravel coming out of there,” he said. “So, where is that coming from? (Gonder’s) already exhausted the resource within the limits of the boundary of the lease.”
He’s also storing a lot of nonquarry-related material there. The site was starting to evolve more toward an industrial lot, said Ross, citing manholes, culverts and pipe.
“What does that have to do with quarrying? So we flagged it and raised the issue with (Energy, Mines and Resources).
“But the government was not prepared to enforce that. They basically said, ‘If you put it in the back corner and put a fence around it, we’ll call it good.’ But I don’t know if that ever happened.”
Energy, Mines and Resources “didn’t take a firm stance,” said Ross. “And we argued with them that every time you allow for a little more of a concession, it gets harder and harder to bring everything to an end.”
Gonder also wanted to burn demolition waste on the site.
But that has nothing to do with quarrying, and is not allowed under the Yukon Environment Act, said Ross.
The city believed Gonder was angling to buy the land and convert it into an industrial site, but that runs counter to the Official Community Plan, “because this is painted as an outdoor recreation area and it’s contiguous with the McIntyre Creek area and the ski trails.”
After his lease expired, Gonder got a “licence of occupation” ordering him to remove his equipment and materials by July 31, 2010, and remediate the lot by the end of September.
“So there shouldn’t have been quarrying happening right now,” said Ross. “Under the licence it should all have come to an end by July 31 – everything should have been removed off the site and (Tubman) shouldn’t have been there.”
If Gonder had complied with the order, Tubman’s burned remains would not have been discovered in an illegal trailer on the lot.
“You can’t not draw that conclusion,” said Ross.
Yukon government must enforce its rules, but there’s been a lot of “foot-dragging” at Energy, Mines and Resources, he said.
“I don’t have the authority to go up there, go onto the site and start ordering people around, because I’m not the landlord. And YTG doesn’t want to do enforcement because they don’t want to look like the bad guy.”
A registered letter reminding Gonder to clear everything off the lot by July 31 wasn’t even sent by Yukon government officials until August 11, two weeks after the fact.
“I know there are people over (at Energy, Mines and Resources) that are very motivated to follow up on this stuff,” said Ross.
“But they’ve been frustrated in the past, because, when they tried to take a stand and then looked for backing from higher ups, they’ve not been supported.
“Its really tough when you go out there and take a stand, and then you get shot down by your own department.
“There’s always the political interference that happens on these things because nobody wants to have Doug Gonder running in and banging on some minister’s door.
“So you always get the little guy trying to hold the line and force the rule and as it filters up through the ranks, sometimes it comes back down saying, ‘Just don’t worry about it right now.’”
Now, police tape is preventing Energy, Mines and Resources officials from checking the site, said Billingham.
The site was cordoned on August 15, after Tubman’s body was discovered. Police suspect foul play.
Between July 31 and August 15, there was a two-week window when government officials could have confirmed Gonder’s stuff had been cleared off the site.
“I can’t say if they went out there prior (to the fire) or not,” said Billingham.
“The enforcement of these things is complicated.”
If Gonder was found in noncompliance, “one of the tools at our disposal is the courts.
“But we always try and get things done without having to resort to that.”
And now, because the RCMP won’t let anyone on the site, Energy, Mines and Resources is giving Gonder more concessions.
“Nobody’s allowed on the site right now, and therefore he’s not able to comply,” said Billingham.
“I think we would be a little lenient with his time frame, given that situation.”
The site is supposed to be restored to a natural state by the end of September.
The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board can’t investigate the caretaker’s death until RCMP wraps up its investigation, said corporate services director Mark Hill.
But the safety board did fine Gonder’s Norcope Enterprises $2,500 for failing to ensure its workers were adequately supervised while excavating near electrical cables at the Takhini North subdivision on June 28.
Gonder refused to comment for this story.
Contact Genesee Keevil at