Miners’ rights still trump city’s

The city may have to go to court to clarify what right it has, if any, to ban mineral staking within municipal boundaries. Friday, city officials and politicians admitted during a special management meeting that they weren't sure how much power they had to stop mineral staking.

The city may have to go to court to clarify what right it has, if any, to ban mineral staking within municipal boundaries.

Friday, city officials and politicians admitted during a special management meeting that they weren’t sure how much power they had to stop mineral staking.

The city has long been pressured by citizens and special interest groups, such as the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club, to ban mineral staking within city limits.

But the Yukon Quartz Mining Act, which allows mineral staking throughout the territory, has prevented the city from doing so.

Currently a miner’s right to stake land trumps a city politician’s right to zone a subdivision, business district or trail system.

“How does the authority of the municipal act stack up against the quartz mining act? That’s something that hasn’t been addressed clearly,” said city land development supervisor Pat Ross during the lunchtime meeting.

Geologists Jesse Duke and Sally Howson, who were hired by the Yukon Chamber of Mines to write a best-practice manual about mineral exploration, also attended the meeting.

The manual is expected to include regulations on staking, but councillors weren’t hopeful it would clarify problems associated with people staking claims on private land and recreation trails.

“I see this (the manual) as an attempt to head off a ban (on mineral staking) in Whitehorse,” said councillor Doug Graham.

“People will read the manual and say, ‘See, we’re following best practices and should be allowed to continue staking.’”

The only way to eliminate the conflict is to ban staking altogether, he said.

But the hour-long meeting only reinforced how powerless the city is to stop mineral staking from occurring.

“This falls down to the territorial government – they’re the holders of legislation for the Municipal Act and Quartz Mining Act,” said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

“They’ll decide where precedence takes place.”

The city hasn’t yet taken the issue to court to clarify what rights they have, but isn’t ruling it out as an option, he said.

It’s expected the 2009 Official Community Plan will request the minister of Energy, Mines and Resources ban staking in the city.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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