Contractor’s “meeting with minister” bends the rules

Doug Gonder's quarry file is as thick as a futon. The bulk of it contains notices of unpaid royalties and lease fees. There's also a long list of infractions.

Doug Gonder’s quarry file is as thick as a futon.

The bulk of it contains notices of unpaid royalties and lease fees.

There’s also a long list of infractions.

Gonder, who owns Norcope Enterprises Ltd., has been operating a gravel quarry on the Copper Haul Road since 1995.

Over the last 15 years, he installed a septic bed without permission, stored nonquarry related materials on-site, took gravel from outside the quarry boundaries in land zoned “environmental protection,” and failed to remediate the site.

Energy, Mines and Resources sent Gonder letter after letter: “remediation measures are outstanding,”“payment for royalties” are owing.

And the quarry file got thicker and thicker.

Then, in 2007, Gonder got mad.

“I am very disappointed in the … harsh ways lands branch has dealt with our lease,” wrote Gonder in a July 5 letter to acting lands branch manager John Cole.

“I was out of town when hauling was underway in the area outside the lease,” he wrote.

And Gonder wanted to continue storing equipment at the site, stating “the city has no issue with the storage of materials.”

Then, he threatened to go to Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Archie Lang.

“I will request a meeting to discuss this issue with the minister, hopefully we can resolve the differences.”

Cole immediately sent an e-mail to lands branch director Lyle Henderson.

“We did not threaten Mr. Gonder in any way,” he wrote. “We simply pointed out the terms and conditions of his lease.

“He was interested in getting our consent to quarry outside his lease … we explicitly told him we could not give him permission to carry out activities that violated … his lease and city bylaws.”

Contrary to Gonder’s claims, the city does not want him storing materials on the site, added Cole.

(An e-mail from city planner Pat Ross, sent a few weeks before Gonder’s angry letter, stated: “Gonder has ignored direction from Yukon government lands staff … and has started to excavate outside the boundaries of the lease area.

“This is not an ‘Oops,’ as lands staff … clearly flagged the extents of the lease.

“This act, in combination with the continued use of the site for storage of materials and the clearing of an area outside the lease boundaries, constitutes a blatant disregard for the rules and regulations he must adhere to.”)

Cole was worried Gonder’s threat to meet with Lang might give Gonder the out he was looking for.

“Entertaining any of Mr. Gonder’s requests would have clearly been a breach of public trust,” wrote Cole in the e-mail.

“I would hope the minister would expect nothing less than complete compliance.”

Henderson met with Gonder three days after Cole sent his e-mail asking him, as director, to force Gonder to follow the rules.

The men had a “lengthy discussion,” wrote Henderson in an e-mail to deputy minister Angus Robertson.

And Henderson decided Gonder’s “quarrying outside the lease boundary … is no longer an issue.”

Henderson also decided the “storage of non-quarry equipment and material” is “no issue.”

“Excellent follow-up,

and thanks,” wrote Robertson.

“Will let Archie (Lang) know.”

Lang’s executive assistant, Currie Dixon, was pleased with the outcome.

“A job very well done, gentleman,” wrote Dixon.

“I spoke with Mr. Gonder today. He seemed content with the results of the meeting … and was optimistic about a resolution to his problem.”

Gonder was now allowed to continue operating in contravention of his lease.

A few months later, Gonder illegally installed a septic bed at the quarry to accompany a trailer he was keeping there for a caretaker.

The trailer was not allowed under the lease, either.

When the septic was discovered in December 2007, Environmental Health reported two violations: the septic was “installed without a permit and there was no authority to operate said system.”

Nothing happened.

In the spring of 2008, Gonder still hadn’t remediated land dug up outside the boundaries of his lease. And royalties were owing.

He also didn’t have an operating permit anymore.

The last one had expired six months earlier, in November 2007.

Finally, more than a year later, in December 2008, Gonder paid the minimum royalties required and was issued a permit valid until July 12, 2009.

Another year passed.

Then, in August, the remains of Gonder’s caretaker, Gordon Craig Tubman, were found in a burned-out trailer at the quarry site.

After Gonder’s lease expired more than a year ago, he was supposed to be issued a “licence of occupation” that would allow him to take the last stockpiles of gravel off the site and remediate it.

But nine months passed, and Gonder still hadn’t paid his “outstanding lease and royalty fees.”

So the occupation licence wasn’t issued.

“Once the fees are paid we will issue the licence,” wrote lands officer Sheila Smith in a March 2010 e-mail.

The occupation licence was finally signed July 5, just 26 days before he was required to have cleared everything off the site.

Remediation is to be completed by the end of September.

On August 13, two weeks after the site was supposed to be vacated, Gonder wrote to Cole, asking for an extension.

His caretaker was still living onsite, safeguarding his equipment.

“It is virtually impossible to get the manpower to finish this work now,” wrote Gonder in an e-mail.

“I would request we have until mid-November 2010 to move items not related to the gravel quarry, such as camp and piping supplies.”

And he wanted “an additional season to deplete the existing stockpiles” of gravel.

Energy, Mines and Resources fired back: “Please cease and desist all work and begin remediation.”

Two days later, Tubman was found dead in the illegal trailer, and police blocked off the site.

Gonder will probably get an extension, said Energy, Mines and Resources spokesperson Ron Billingham in a previous News interview.

“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.”

Gonder could not be reached before press time.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com