Mayo residents wary of mining’s many messes

When Frank Patterson was only 18, he went by horseback into the Peel with his friend Jimmy Johnny. It changed his life. "I was troubled but that four months that I spent out there - I came back with a different perspective.

MAYO

When Frank Patterson was only 18, he went by horseback into the Peel with his friend Jimmy Johnny.

It changed his life.

“I was troubled but that four months that I spent out there – I came back with a different perspective. It took me a long way,” Patterson told more than 50 people who came out to a public meeting on the Peel plan Wednesday.

“It was the best time in my life that I’ve ever had,” he said.

In addition to his fond memories, Patterson, now chair of the Mayo Renewable Resources Council, also remembers seeing abandoned mineral exploration sites left for the taxpayers to clean up.

Many of these old sites are still there, said Johnny, who has been guiding in the upper Peel since 1958.

“It doesn’t matter how much money the mining and exploration companies bring into the Yukon, what matters is the water, the fish, the people,” Johnny told the hometown crowd.

Na-cho Nyak Dun elder Bella Peter described what she found at the abandoned Hart River mine site when she arrived there to cook several years ago for a crew trying to clean it up.

“Whoever ran that mine there, they left everything there,” said Peter. “It was just a mess. I don’t know how many trailers were there. And the gas tank. One old truck. One old grader. And the kitchen – they had a little kitchen there and it was just a mess.

“That’s why we don’t want any miner to go out and cut any ground.”

There’s more to consider than just, “gold, gold, gold,” she added.

Gold has been a “four-letter word” for thousands of years, said Mayo resident Susan Stuart.

“We’ve stolen, we’ve killed, we’ve raped and pillaged – we’ve done all those wonderful things for the pretty yellow stuff,” she said.

The Na-cho Nyak Dun is pushing for 100 per cent of the watershed to be protected, and she thanked the First Nation for taking that stand.

Hunting outfitter Alan Young, who operates in the Wind and Hart River region, said Yukoners need to realize there are not many large wilderness areas left in North America.

If it’s left as it is, it will be even more valuable, he said.

“I see canoers, rafters, hikers, hunters – all kinds of people … and you know what? You cannot see where they were yesterday,” said Young. “They are leaving no impact on this land and it’s sustainable.”

Na-cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn says the land, air and water – or the LAW as he likes to call the trio – need to be given top priority.

He also presented Yukon government officials with a petition signed by people from around the territory, calling on Premier Dennis Fentie to protect the Peel.

The only person who spoke against protection in the watershed was self-employed Yukon geologist Clive Aspinall.

The recommended plan – which protects 80 per cent of the watershed – is neither fair nor balanced, he said.

However he didn’t say what percentage, if any, he would consider acceptable.

The mining industry brings millions of dollars to the territory, and he’s afraid that will dry up if the Peel is protected.

This was the last of eight community meetings held by the Yukon government on the Peel land use plan.

It hopes to work out a formal response to the plan, along with the four affected First Nations, before the end of the year.

Yukon writer Mary Walden is doing a series of stories on the Peel Watershed. The former CBC journalist and Yukon News editor also co-owns a wilderness tourism company that does canoe trips in the region.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Togo member Katie Moen sits in a sled behind a snowmobile for the ride from the airport to Chief Zzeh Gittlit School. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Coming together: How Old Crow became one of the first communities in the world to be fully vaccinated

Team Togo and Team Balto assembled with a mission to not waste a single dose of vaccine

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. If council moves forward with bylaw changes, eating and drinking establishments could set up pop-up patios in on-street parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Patios may be popping up in Whitehorse this summer

City considers program for downtown restaurants and bars

The Yukon Coroner's Service has confirmed the death of a skateboarder found injured on Hamilton Boulevard on May 2. Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News
Whitehorse man dies in skateboarding accident

Coroner urges the use of helmets, protective gear, while skateboarding.

The new Yukon Liberal caucus poses for a photo during the swearing-in ceremony held on May 3. (Yukon Government/Submitted)
Liberal cabinet sworn in at legislature before house resumes on May 11

Newly elected MLA Jeremy Harper has been nominated as speaker.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s baby bison, born April 22, mingles with the herd on April 29. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Yukon Wildlife Preserves welcomes two bison calves

A bison calf was the first 2021 baby born at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

A map provided by the Yukon government shows the location of unpermitted logging leading to a $2,500 fine. (Courtesy/Yukon government)
Man fined $2,500 for felling trees near Beaver Creek

The incident was investigated by natural resource officers and brought to court.

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Most Read