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Guilty pleas entered for Cowley Creek mineral exploration licence violations

Exploration company representative says impacted areas were rehabiliated, pledges public engagement
A mineral exploration company entered guilty pleas to Quartz Mining Act charges relating to a project in the Cowley Creek area on Aug. 18. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News Files)

Mineral exploration in the Cowley Creek area has drawn the ire of neighbours along with the accusations by the government that the company behind the project violated its licenses. The company entered guilty pleas to six offences on Aug. 18.

Gladiator Metals Corp. was charged with offences under the Quartz Mining Act: It was alleged that the company created clearings greater than 400 square metres, upgraded access roads, “removed the vegetative mat” without storing and replacing it, failed to contain drill fluids and rutted or gouged roads. These all allegedly amounted to conducting a Class 3 exploration program outside permitted operating conditions.

One offence alleged that Gladiator conducted its Class 1 exploration in a way not approved by the chief of mining land use and the Yukon government’s heritage resources unit. Correspondence from the chief of mining land use to Gladiator sent this April refers to a map of the area Gladiator is permitted to conduct exploration in that identifies areas where there is a greater potential of heritage resources being present.

“The operator shall not conduct land-altering activities within these areas unless prior approval has been granted by the Heritage Resources Unit,” reads the correspondence.

The offences are supposed to have taken place place between April 24 and May 12 of this year. Charges were filed June 27.

Gladiator entered the guilty pleas to all six charges on Aug. 18. Sentencing for the matter is set for Aug. 31.

One of Gladiator’s earlier court appearances drew a protest with a group of people standing near the courthouse carrying signs expressing opposition to the exploration project.

According to a written statement provided by a Yukon Energy, Mines and Resources department representative, natural resource officers regularly visit exploration sites like the Cowley Creek area and mines to ensure rules are being followed.

“This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to protecting the environment and ensuring that mining and exploration activities are conducted in a responsible manner,” the statement reads.

Per the Energy, Mines and Resources representative’s statement, Gladiator is still able to work on the site but regular inspections by government personnel have found no evidence that the company returned since charges were laid.

Jason Bontempo, a representative of Gladiator, told the News that the company did return to the area to conduct remediation but hadn’t done any exploration work since the charges were filed.

“All these infringements here have been dealt with, it’s completely been rehabilitated,” Bontempo said.

“Obviously, you know, we’ve been in cooperation from the outset, with the department, with compliance monitoring, as soon as they inspected.”

Bontempo noted that the only information about local opposition the company received was in a conversation with Scott Kent, the area’s Yukon Party MLA. Bontempo said no detailed explanation of people’s concerns was given to the company and no public consultation was done because it is not required for Class 1 exploration. He pledged that would change as the work progressed.

“As we move forward, and we know, we see this, you know, the area is very much worthwhile, or if activity is to increase, it will involve a significant amount of community engagement. Absolutely.”

Bontempo noted that the company’s exploration permit remains in good standing but that they are looking to work with the territorial government to get everything right and also engage with the community before recommencing work.

— With files from Matthew Bossons

Contact Jim Elliot at

Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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