New concerns arise over placer mining in Dawson City

Last year, Slinky owner Darrell Carey reached an agreement with the Yukon government to surrender a series of placer mining claims on the west side of the Dome Road in Dawson City by the end of 2017.

Updated

The Slinky placer mine saga has reared its head again.

Last year, Slinky mine owner Darrell Carey reached an agreement with the Yukon government to surrender placer mining claims on the west side of the Dome Road in Dawson City by the end of 2017.

But now, Carey is applying for a 10-year permit to mine 31 claims on the east side of the Dome Road, raising new concerns about impacts on nearby residents.

The conflict stems from the fact that a number of long-standing mining claims still exist within municipal boundaries in the Yukon, particularly around Dawson City. The Placer Mining Act prohibits the staking of new claims within municipal boundaries, but that doesn’t affect existing claims.

According to Carey’s Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act proposal, the mine will operate 24 hours a day, but is “more distant from residents than the Dome Road area to the west,” where the Slinky mine is operating. However, it also notes that there are some residences overlapping some of the northernmost claims, though “a 100-metre buffer will remain undisturbed in this area.” There are also active ski trails in the area.

“We are concerned of course that the mine proposal will affect the ski trails potentially as well as quality of life for Dome residents,” Cathie Findlay-Brook, president of the Klondike Active Transport and Trails Society, wrote in an email to the News. She said her organization is hoping to meet with Carey to discuss the future of the trails.

In the legislative assembly last week, NDP mining critic Jim Tredger questioned why the government didn’t include these claims in the 2014 agreement that will see the Slinky mine wrap up operations by 2017.

“The government’s settlement is next to useless and the people of Dawson are right back where they started, wondering whether there will be a new mine operating in their backyard once again,” he said.

Mines Minister Scott Kent did not answer Tredger’s question directly, instead pointing out that the YESAA process is ongoing and the public comment period for the new proposal will be open until Dec. 22.

He also challenged Tredger to come up with a better way of dealing with mineral claims inside municipal boundaries.

“One of the things we won’t do is expropriate claims or buy out claims,” he said.

“I would certainly be interested in the New Democrats’ position with respect to that issue and whether or not they would take the claims away from the claimholder or buy out the economic opportunity that exists with those claims.”

The 2014 deal saw the Yukon government agree to reroute the Dome Road around Carey’s claims, so that he didn’t have to wait until gold prices were high enough to make it worthwhile for him to dig up the road himself.

In exchange, Carey agreed to finish mining the area by Dec. 31, 2017 and to surrender some or all of the claims after that “to ensure that no mining activity can be carried out on the claims to the west of realigned Dome Road,” according to the agreement.

The government committed $1.3 million for the rerouting of the road. It also has plans to develop a residential subdivision on that same piece of land once the mining is finished.

But Carey’s claims on the east side of the road were never included in that agreement.

Dawson resident Jim Taggart said the 2014 agreement seems like a form of expropriation, even if the government doesn’t call it that. That being the case, he said, the government should have found a way to include the claims on the east side of the road in the agreement.

“Why not just give him a million dollars and let the claims lapse?” he suggested.

Taggart said residents of the new subdivision being planned for the Slinky site will now find themselves “living directly across the road from an active placer mine.”

However, this wouldn’t be the first time the area on the east side of the road has been mined. Energy, Mines and Resources spokesperson Sue Thomas said Carey is simply applying for the relicensing of an area where work was already happening.

“Some people think it’s a new operation, but it’s just a relicensing of an existing operation,” she said.

Of the 31 claims, six have been owned by Darrell Carey since 1998. The remaining 25 were transferred in 2013 from Vicbi Placers Inc. to 47162 Yukon Inc., whose two directors are Carey and Rod Adams.

According to Carey’s YESAA application, “both Vicbi Placers and recently Darrell Carey have mined in this eastern bench area without objections from the residents.”

The proposal says that “limited” placer mining has occurred in the area for the past 10 seasons.

Klondike MLA Sandy Silver, who lives near the area, said it “hasn’t been mined in earnest.”

Still, Silver said the community is divided on this issue. On one hand, he said, Dawson residents know how important placer mining is for their economy. And he knew full well that his property was on an active mining claim when he bought it.

But he also believes the government could have tried harder to get these 31 claims included in the 2014 agreement.

“It’s a dividing issue. But I honestly believe the Yukon Party had a chance to solve it,” he said. “I think we missed an opportunity.”

Carey did not respond to a request for comment.

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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