A series of 13 claims in the Klondike Valley may be on richer ground than miners anticipated.
That’s because the claims overlap the land the Yukon government has designated for a sewage treatment lagoon for Dawson City.
On Monday, Klondike MLA Peter Jenkins said a miner wants the government to pay $9 million to give up his mining rights.
“I’m given to understand the conflict of mining will necessitate $9 million — that is what the miner is looking for to give up his rights to not mine that ground — it’s very rich ground,” Jenkins said in an interview.
The 13 claims, which overlap a 20-hectare property designated as Site A, in the Callison subdivision, are registered to Wayne Hawkes, Walter Hinnek and Cam Sigurdson.
The land sits at the south edge of Callison, west of Bonanza Creek Road.
Hawkes has the rights to mine eight of the claims, Hinnek four and Sigurdson, one.
Hawkes said a business partner, Gary Crawford, has been negotiating with the government.
Hawkes has claimed the land for 30 years, he said in an interview.
“My claims were staked for mining and that’s what they’ll be — mined.”
He considers the land wealthy, he said.
“It is definitely mineable property.”
Hawkes also said he has an active water licence and a five-year land-use permit from the government.
He did not discuss any negotiations Crawford has had with the government on behalf of the miners, noting Crawford is out of the territory until Sunday.
The government should consider another site for a sewage lagoon because the proposed Callison location is upriver from Dawson City, said Hawkes.
“This shouldn’t go anywhere upstream from Dawson City,” he said.
“Something like that should go down from Dawson City and then you never have to worry. They do have earthquakes up here, and a pipeline could rupture.”
With the proposed government plan, untreated sewage would flow along a five-kilometre pipeline from Dawson along the Klondike River to Callison and then be transferred to the sewage lagoon for treatment.
The treated sewage would then follow another pipeline back to the Dawson City screening plant where it would be disposed of in the Yukon River through the force main.
Building the lagoon downriver would only require one pipeline, said Hawkes, and Dawson would not be threatened with untreated sewage in its drinking water aquifer if the pipeline broke.
“It’s a one-way pipeline that way, and there is way less cost.”
The government’s preliminary capital cost estimate for the lagoon system is $14 million.
Jenkins also questions the logistics of building a lagoon upstream from Dawson and the cost of acquiring the land from the miners.
“The aerated lagoon appears to be reasonable until you look at land and what you have to do acquire right-of-way,” he said.
But building a standard mechanical plant is also not a reasonable option for the municipality, said Jenkins.
Epcor and GJ Bull have offered mechanical sewage treatment plant options for Dawson City since its water licence expired in January 2000.
But these plants are grandiose for Dawson because the town does not produce enough sewage to feed the bacteria necessary to operate the plant, said Jenkins.
“The (sequential batch reactor) is not an option. There would be a need to import sludge in order to make the sewage work, let alone the cost, which, I’m given to understand, is $20 million.”
Jenkins proposes the government find a better solution to the problem by performing further research into filtration systems used in Europe and in cruise ships for smaller populations.
If a cost-effective solution is not found soon, Dawson will be faced with operating an expensive mechanical plant, he said.
“I’m afraid if no solutions are presented that are viable, the courts are going to instruct the government of Yukon to install an SBR, which, on the surface, would meet the law,” he said.
“It wouldn’t work and the costs of operation are prohibitive.”
In 2003, Judge Heino Lilles ordered Dawson to have a sewage treatment plant in place by September 2004, or face heavy fines.