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In the Yukon, miners stand above the rest of the community

Glenda Bolt wonders why miners' rights trump the rights of citizens. Bolt has lived in the Yukon for 24 years. Five years ago, she bought a house on Dawson's Midnight Dome hoping to retire there.

Glenda Bolt wonders why miners’ rights trump the rights of citizens.

Bolt has lived in the Yukon for 24 years.

Five years ago, she bought a house on Dawson’s Midnight Dome hoping to retire there. Now she worries she’ll have to move somewhere else.

In March, Bolt learned miner Darrell Carey, who owns claims next to her home, wanted to expand his placer mining operation.

The large swaths of gravel near her home have always been a part of the local scenery on the Dome. Residents even jokingly refer to it as a “moonscape,” but like many of her neighbours Bolt didn’t ever see it turning into a full-blown mine.

When she bought her home she knew the claims existed, but she never expected Carey to dig up the surrounding roads to look for gold, especially since it could put people’s safety and privacy at risk.

She has spent hours in her backyard hauling rocks for her garden and planting trees and shrubs around her home. When she talks about losing the money and time she’s invested in her home, she’s almost brought to tears.

She’s not the only one who feels tied to the area.

Every day, she sees people walking the trails and the road near the minesite. There’s mothers with strollers, kids on bikes and runners who travel along the Dome Road, many who have been stopping lately to peer at the danger signs that have been cropping up around the mine.

Bolt wants to know why the territory considers the right of one miner more important than the rights of several residents.

“All the neighbours here are making contributions to the social fabric of the Yukon,” she said.

“The teacher next door, the doctor - we should all be taken into consideration, not just miners.”

She wants the Yukon’s mining laws changed so they’re more in touch with modern living.

“The current mining act reflects this attitude that you have the right to just go anywhere and take what you want.

“You can just go into anybody’s backyard now and stake a claim.

“I’m not opposed to miners making a living, but they should still have to be respectful of (the surrounding community).”

Until now, she’s been largely ignored by her MLA Steve Nordick and hasn’t received any responses to the e-mails she’s sent to Community Services Minister Archie Lang, she said.

The Dawson resident has never considered herself an activist, but this March she began to furiously organize against the mine.

Being a “community vigilante” is a hard title to bear in such a small community, she says.

She’s noticed some neighbours have avoided her at the post office and on the street. But, at the same time, there are others she never expected to come forward to her and confide their support.

“One of the gold buyers in town told me some of the miners are saying they don’t agree with what’s happening on the Dome,” she said.

There’s a sense out there that Carey can’t adequately pull off the job, she said, adding, “There’s a big concern amongst people on the Dome that their road won’t be rebuilt.”

Dawson has repeatedly raised concerns about the miner ripping up roads in search of gold. They’re also worried Carey flagrantly ignored a stop-work order the town slapped on his operation for clearing trees without first getting a development permit.

“I don’t think anyone’s happy with how this has played out,” said Councillor Wayne Potoroka.

“In some mining circles people think the (Dome incident) is giving placers miners a bad name,” he said.

For three years Potoroka worked at a placer mining operation for Dawson miner Stuart Schmidt. He’s convinced the mining industry in Dawson is community-minded, he said.

“A lot of the miners live here in town and pitch in with local events.”

But even he doesn’t believe that mining belongs within a community’s boundaries.

“I haven’t heard a reasonable response yet as to why this should be allowed,” he said.

He’s convinced territorial legislation doesn’t even support the idea of mining within communities.

“The Placer Act says that you can’t make a claim or mine in a community,” he said.

He points to section 17 of the act, which states that a miner can’t mine “within the boundaries of a city, town, or village unless under regulations approved by the commissioner in Executive Council.”

They’re also not supposed to stake claims or mine on a site “occupied by a building or within the (vicinity) of a dwelling-house.”

Bolt has talked about taking the issue to court with some of her neighbours, but she thinks the exercise would be too costly and exhausting to go through, she said.

However, she would have liked at the very least for the Yukon Territorial Water Board to have a public hearing on the issue. When the board came forward with its decision to renew Carey’s water licence last week, it said a hearing wasn’t warranted.

“The reason I wanted a public hearing is that people will often say something, but they won’t put it in writing,” she said.

It’s a challenging thing to speak to such a divisive issue in a town like Dawson.

“People are afraid of the Placer Miners’ Association; it’s an old boys’ club,” said Bolt.

“It’s difficult for people in the community to say something because normally we all try so hard to get along.”

Both Darrell Carey and his wife refused comment on the issue.

Calls to Klondike Placer Miners’ Association president Stuart Schmidt also weren’t returned.

Contact Vivian Belik at