Placer miner applies to work claims in Dawson subdivision

Assessors at the Dawson office for the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board have opened up Heisey's application to public comment and are experiencing a wave of deja vu.

If Mike Heisey gets his way, residents of Dawson City’s Dredge Pond subdivision will soon have a new neighbour – a placer mine.

Assessors at the Dawson office for the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board have opened up Heisey’s application to public comment and are experiencing a wave of deja vu.

It was less than three years ago that they received Darrell Carey’s application to mine his Slinky claims on the Dome Road.

And even though the board finished its assessment of Slinky in March 2010, that project continues to be a divisive issue for the community, even taking its fair share of debate during last October’s territorial election.

Heisey staked the two placer claims in the Klondike Valley back in the summer of 1980. That was well before the 2003 territorial order that forbade the staking of placer claims within Dawson City’s municipal limits.

So, like Carey’s Slinky claims, which also abutted peoples homes, Heisey’s claims have been grandfathered.

Now he’d like to start developing them.

The assessment board received Heisey’s application for an operating permit and water licence in November.

“It’s fairly standard,” said Janice Rose, who is assessing the project for Dawson’s YESAB office. “The reason it’s brought some attention is that it also happens to be located in a subdivision. It’s two claims and they straddle the Klondike River as well.”

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has notified the board it is particularly concerned about the project because the area is a known salmon spawning ground.

The department is also opposed to Heisey’s proposal to ford the river to transport equipment and fuel to the claims.

The project is “likely to result in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat,” the department said in a letter to the assessment board.

“The proponent should modify the proposal … If this is not feasible, a site specific Fisheries Act Authorization may be required … As such, our department is a decision body in the assessment of this project.”

The assessment board has received 12 other comments so far.

Neighbours to Heisey’s claims are also opposed to the project.

“The subject of placer mining in a residential area is horrible,” wrote Heather Beveridge, who lives across the street from the claims.

“The dredge-pond is becoming a wonderful subdivision to live in – people ride their bikes, walk their dogs and push their babies in strollers. It does not seem fair, as a resident, that this placer mine should be allowed in a subdivision that has been zoned as a residential area.”

Beveridge’s letter also provided details about wildlife and fish habitat.

She said she was also concerned that “the dredge rocks will leak like sieves” and let tailings “run off into the ground water, the ponds and also the Klondike River.”

Another neighbour, Suzanne Guimond, attached an August 2005 letter from the City of Dawson to her submission.

Guimond had concerns about water quality, especially considering that many of the subdivision’s residents get their water directly from the Klondike River.

The town’s letter she attached included seven of the town’s own concerns with the project back when Heisey applied for a land use permit in 2005.

It also pointed out that the Klondike River was a main source of the town’s drinking water, as well as concerns about Heisey’s access to the site and the noise pollution a placer mine would undoubtedly cause.

Restrictions to the times Heisey could operate and finding another access route were deemed necessary before issuing a permit, the 2005 letter said.

The closest residential lot to Heisey’s claims is 20 metres, said Rose. On the north side of the Klondike River, where one of the claims sits, the land is zoned hinterland. The other claim on the south side has been zoned country/residential, she added.

There are about 25 residents currently living in the subdivision, she confirmed.

The board is accepting comments on the project until Feb. 28. Then it will decide whether it has enough information to continue its assessment or whether it needs to know more.

“When you look at the record, our Dawson office did a very thorough assessment of the Slinky Mine,” said Stephen Mills, chair of the assessment board. “And it’s doing a very thorough assessment of this mine.

“There were a large number of concerns raised and we think we did a very good assessment report. For us, the precedence that we set is that we truly consider all comments that come in to our assessments and we explore options to mitigate the impacts that people are concerned about and that we identify.

“Any kind of projects that are close to residential areas and that have those types of potential impacts tend to generate quite a bit of comment. That’s why this process was established. We’re fully transparent and the more comments we get, it helps us improve our assessments.”

The issue was in front of Dawson City’s town council on Feb. 22.

Neither town officials or Heisey could be reached for comment.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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