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Keno City a 'canary in the coal mine'

The plight of Keno City residents ought to serve as a wake-up call to Yukoners across the territory, says Jim Tredger, the NDP's MLA for Mayo-Tatchun.

The plight of Keno City residents ought to serve as a wake-up call to Yukoners across the territory, says Jim Tredger, the NDP’s MLA for Mayo-Tatchun.

The tiny community, which has a population of about 30, is largely opposed to the nearby silver-mining operations of Alexco Resources.

Residents complain the community’s tranquil vibe has been marred by truck traffic and the racket of the nearby mill. That’s hurt tourism operations, which have seen a 40 per cent decline in traffic, said Tredger.

“The residents in Keno are actively talking about packing up and leaving,” said Tredger. “What is happening here? These Yukoners have created a community based on more than just mining and they are losing that community and their livelihood.

“These are families who may be forced to sell at a loss - to lose everything they have worked for over the last 20 years, just to meet the short-term goals of a major, multinational corporation with head offices Outside.

“The concerns we are hearing is that Keno is the canary in the coal mine and the precedence set there could be repeated throughout this territory.”

When Alexco bought a complex of historic mines in the area, it agreed to clean up an historic mess left by its predecessors.

“So they are taking action to reduce health and safety risks to the people of Keno that previously existed,” said Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers.

Tredger warned that the Silver Trail to Keno has become a “dangerous industrial road.” But the territory plans to spend $500,000 this year to upgrade the road, said Cathers.

Pricey lots sit unsold

The Yukon government is overpricing property, said the NDP’s Kate White in the legislature this week.

Twenty industrial lots in Dawson City remain unsold after going out to tender last week, the MLA for Takhini-Kopper King noted during question period on Wednesday.

Dawson’s mayor, Peter Jenkins, isn’t pleased, said White.

“The mayor said, and I quote: ‘No one’s wanting to pay that kind of price. It’s far easier to go out and stake your mining claim and acquire land that way, and that’s exactly what it’s going to encourage.’”

White asked if the government supported having “Yukoners of modest means stake claims in order to find an affordable place to live.”

Those lots are priced on the cost of development, said Community Services Minister Elaine Taylor. Laying utility lines and paving roads all contributed to the final prices, which ranged from $80,000 for a .4-hectare lot to $162,000 for a .853-hectare lot.

“The mayor says they were priced at 10 times their real value,” said White.

Bad timing is likely partly to blame for the lack of interest, said John Cole, the land branch’s manager of client services.

“Snow is on the ground. And individuals looking for that type of lot simply aren’t in Dawson. It’s the off-season.”

The lot prices are comparable to private sales in Dawson, said Cole. “They’d probably at least be on par, if not more.”

The lots will continue to be available for sale over the counter. The same goes with an unsold lot in the Whitehorse Copper subdivision. It was priced, to some controversy, at $200,000.

The lot initially sold for $100,000 several years ago, but the purchaser returned it. Then the territory had the lot reappraised at $244,000.

Cole suspects the lot will eventually sell.

“I guess there wasn’t a prudent buyer around who had done his homework and felt there was value there,” he said. “I think a lot of it has to with there being snow on the ground, too.”

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