Dawson mine gears up on the Dome

Dawson residents thought the government was waiting on Yukon Water Board hearings before deciding about the fate of a placer mine on the Midnight Dome subdivision. But this week they've noticed signs the Slinky placer mine is going ahead anyway.

Dawson residents thought the government was waiting on Yukon Water Board hearings before deciding about the fate of a placer mine on the Midnight Dome subdivision.

But this week they’ve noticed signs the Slinky placer mine is going ahead anyway.

Tuesday trees started disappearing on Mary McLean Road alongside the mine.

Then came the road signs. Bright yellow and orange signposts popped up on Dome Road warning pedestrians and drivers to be cautious.

One says, “active mine area, stay on main highway.”

Another says “Danger” with a sign of a man shoveling beneath it.

“This is just ridiculous,” said Glenda Bolt, whose house is less than 100 metres from some of Darrell Carey’s claims. “The trees being removed are coming closer and closer to my property.”

Thursday morning city bylaw officers served Carey a stop work order.

The removal of trees violates city laws, said officer Elizabeth Foubister.

“He needs a development permit for clearing,” she said. “He only has subsurface rights to the land.”

Carey ignored the stop work order and continued clearing trees off the property, said Bolt.

“I don’t know what to do anymore; I don’t even want to go home. I feel sick,” said Bolt, who called the police yesterday because she felt unsafe.

“I’m expecting a D-9 to be plowing closer and closer to my property.”

It’s not the first time Bolt has felt encroached upon. In the fall Bolt discovered another team of prospectors digging holes in her backyard looking for gold.

Carey has the right to continue working his placer claims according to the government and mining recorder.

The particular claim on which he’s clearing trees doesn’t expire until December 2011, said Mark Roberts, a spokesperson for Energy, Mines and Resources.

Meanwhile the government has given no word yet on what it plans to do with competing interests on Dawson’s Midnight Dome.

Late in March, the government gave the green light to a placer mine and a residential subdivision on the same overlapping piece of land in Dawson. Both projects had been rejected by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board.

Carey’s water licence expires May 1. After that the water board will determine whether to extend his licence based on a recent proposal to step up production on the property.

Carey has held claim to the land since 1998 but the land remained relatively dormant until recently.

Now he has plans to strip 40,000 cubic yards of soil per year for the next 10 years, an amount equal to 12 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

By remaining silent on the issue, the government isn’t addressing the concerns of the community, said Bolt.

“It’s such a contentious issue and everybody is under the impression that someone else is taking the lead on it,” she said.

Dawson residents spent the last two months trying to contact Klondike MLA Steve Nordick about the Slinky mine, said Bolt.

Each attempt was ignored.

That was until Bolt cornered Nordick and Community Services Minister Archie Lang at a wine and cheese party for an Association of Yukon Communities meeting last weekend.

They both visited her property.

“It was the first time we had any engagement with our MLA,” she said.

“(Lang) stood at the edge of my property and I got the impression he finally understood just how close the surrounding community is to the mine.”

That’s when Lang told her the mine wouldn’t go ahead any time soon and that more discussion needs to happen, said Bolt.

“But in the meantime the Slinky mine is open and (Carey) is out there working on it.”

Inside the legislature the discussion hasn’t been any clearer.

Last week, Mining Minister Patrick Rouble spent three hours filibustering an NDP motion seeking to clarify mineral staking within municipalities.

“Free entry is simply a system that allows the entrepreneurial spirit to exist, but it in no way reduces anyone else’s legitimate rights,” said Rouble.

The citizens of Dawson argue otherwise.

“This issue has to be kept on the front burner,” said Dome resident Shirley Pennell. She is concerned the mine will create safety hazards and noise disturbances for people in the community.

“I’ve gotten the impression so far it’s not necessarily a key issue to be discussed (in Whitehorse).”

She has little faith in the government heeding the Yukon Water Board’s forthcoming recommendations when it has already rejected the advice of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board.

“With the YESAB report it seemed as though the fox was tending the hen house,” she said.

“How can the (decision to reject the board’s assessment) be made by the department of mining?”

Earlier this month the territorial government met with the municipality of Dawson to discuss the Dome issue.

But it’s unclear what happened at that meeting, attended by Dawson’s mayor and CAO, and Community Services’ assistant deputy minister, Dan Boyd.

Neither the mayor nor CAO returned phone calls.

Even Dawson councillor Wayne Potoroka, who has been candid about the issue in the past, was tight-lipped.

“Ask the mayor,” he said, adding that the process has been moving at a “glacial speed.”

Sunday the Association of Yukon Communities passed a resolution asking the government to engage communities on land-based conflicts arising from mineral staking.

Communication with the municipalities isn’t happening, said Dome resident Sandy Silver, who last weekend announced his intention to run as a Liberal candidate in the upcoming territorial election.

“A lot of Dawsonites just want their MLA to facilitate communications between all level of governments, the miners, and get everybody at the table together,” he said.

What happens with the Slinky mine will have repercussions for the rest of Dawson where there are still 50 open placer claims in the community.

“If the government engaged Carey on the issue long ago they may have been able to resolve this a lot earlier,” said Silver.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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