Whitehorse city council heard arguments in favour of mining exploration work in city limits amid a push by citizens to restrict it permanently.
The request for changes to Whitehorse’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and zoning bylaw barring mineral exploration in city limits was presented at a Jan. 8 city meeting by Skeeter Wright, a representative of the McLean Lake Residents’ Association. Previous delegations of Whitehorse residents had been before council opposing exploration work being conducted by Gladiator Metals Corp. in and near Whitehorse city limits. The company was issued a development permit by the city allowing class-one exploration work on a property off Mount Sima Road in late 2023.
Marcus Harden, Gladiator Metals’ president, presented his views on the advantages of mineral exploration in the Whitehorse Copper Belt when speaking to Whitehorse’s council at its Feb. 5 standing committee meeting.
Harden provided some background on Gladiator’s work in and near Whitehorse, noting it has 10 employees; eight of them live locally.
He also spoke about the $5 million already invested in the work and $8 million budgeted for the coming years.
“This investment was made in good faith, based on the perceived strength of the Yukon municipal legislative frameworks,” he said, adding that conversations with all relevant levels of government proceeded the start of Gladiator’s work.
“This amendment is an attempt to override the Quartz Act and is using city bylaws to attack a legitimate business legally operating within the city,” Harden added.
He said that by passing the proposed changes to the OCP, the city would be limiting economic choice and scientific investigation.
Harden told council that it is a good time for exploration for two other reasons: a fire break is being put into areas on Whitehorse’s west edge that also interests Gladiator for exploration purposes, meaning vegetation won’t have to be cleared for exploration alone. The second reason is strong demand for copper and its status as a critical mineral.
Harden said his company’s goal is defining and presenting an opportunity to the city. He stressed the economic activity a mine could bring. Even if that opportunity is found, he said there are other opportunities for public input and land use decision-making that don’t involve a permanent ban on exploration in city limits.
Casting back to statements made by citizens who already presented to council in opposition to the exploration work, Harden argued that expanding residential neighbourhoods was an argument for exploration not against it. He said the results of exploration can be used to provide options and inform land-use planning.
Also speaking in to council opposing the OCP changes on Jan.5 was Jim Coyne, who operates Kluane Drilling. Kluane Drilling is contracted to assist Gladiator with the exploration work in and near Whitehorse.
Coyne said the changes as proposed send a bad message to the private sector and the mining community. He also noted investments made to recycle water and reduce noise associated with the drilling.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org