Pond set aflame lands miner in hot water

How much responsibility does a company bear when one of its subcontractors pours gasoline on a pond and sets it on fire?

How much responsibility does a company bear when one of its subcontractors pours gasoline on a pond and sets it on fire?

That’s the question Yukon territorial court is faced with in the case of Anton ‘Tony’ Beets, charged with breaching his company’s water licence back in October 2014.

SEE VIDEO CLIP

Beets is one of the directors of Tamarack Inc., who holds a water licence to operate a dredge in the Klondike. Both are charged under the Yukon’s Waters Act with depositing waste into the water and failing to report a fuel spill.

In 2014 a Discovery Channel crew was following Beets and his team working at the dredge at Eureka Creek near the Indian River.

On Oct. 4, one of Beet’s subcontractors, welder Mark Favron, decided to pour a bit of fuel on the dredge pond and light it on fire.

“I don’t give a fuck,” Beets told Favron when he asked whether he could do it, according to Favron’s testimony in court.

Favron estimates he poured about 1 to 1.5 gallons of gasoline on the pond, before setting it on fire.

The entire scene was captured and broadcasted during an episode of the show Gold Rush.

A clip from the episode was shown to the court.

As Favron is seen pouring fuel, a man narrates in a dramatic reality TV voice that the crew is about to give the dredge a “Viking baptism.”

The gasoline instantly catches fires and the camera zooms in on a cheering Beets screaming to the film crew: “I told you guys, ‘come hell or high water!’”

Favron testified he was charged for pouring the gasoline and pleaded guilty. He ended up paying a $1,725 fine.

But the team didn’t set up the shot with the film crew, he insisted, and when he realized he was being filmed he walked out of the shot.

Yukon’s chief mining inspector, Robert Savard, testified his office received a complaint from Environment Canada after the show “100 ounces” episode aired in March 2015.

The court also heard from Tyson Bourgard, a natural resource officer inspecting mine sites.

Bourgard testified he inspected the site about 18 times over the past several years.

Tamarack’s water licence didn’t allow them to deposit any waste toxic to fish and they had to report any spill to the Yukon spill line, he said.

There were no spills reported to the Yukon spill line about that site, Bourgard told the court, who looked for reports of spill on the Indian River in 2014 and 2015.

The licence also only allowed the company to deposit one kind of water: the effluent from the sleucing operations.

In cross-examination, he said that a licensee could let subcontractors use his water licence.

“Ultimately the licensee is held responsible,” he said, under questioning from Andre Roothman, Beets’s lawyer.

Brendan Mulligan, the Yukon government’s senior scientist on water quality, testified as an expert witness on the chemical properties of hydrocarbons, how they move in water and their toxicity.

Gasoline, he testified, contains toxic and carcinogenic substances like benzene, naphtha and ethanol. Some components of gasoline will evaporate, some will be absorbed by solid particles in water, he said. But most of it forms a non-aqueous phase liquid, meaning it doesn’t mix with water.

Setting fuel on fire is a last-resort measure when dealing with a spill, he testified, because of the risks to human health an uncontrolled combustion presents.

Even if the gasoline hadn’t been set on fire, its impact when reaching the Indian River would have been minor because of its volume, he said.

The toxic compounds in gasoline can inhibit exchanges between the water and the atmosphere, he said, which are necessary for aquatic life.

Mulligan said it was likely the concentration of fuel left after the combustion was so small it had no impact when it got to the Indian River, when asked by Roothman.

The defence didn’t call any witnesses.

Roothman will make his final submission today and hinted he would argue over the liability companies have for action their employees take when it doesn’t have anything to do with the company’s work.

Outside the courtroom Beets explained he decided to fight the charges because the fine the prosecutor sought was “substantial.”

“It was big enough to hire a lawyer and get geared up,” he said.

“Mine shouldn’t be bigger than Mark’s was.”

He admits he should have stopped Favron when he was about to pour the gasoline.

“I guess I should have told the man not to do it,” he said.

“But basically it’s a storm in a teacup.”

When asked whether the Discovery crew asked Beets for his permission to use the footage, he wouldn’t talk about it.

“Let’s not open a can of worms,” he said.

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

Just Posted

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

City of Whitehorse staff will report back to city council members in three months, detailing where efforts are with the city’s wildfire risk reduction strategy and action plan for 2021 to 2024. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council adopts wildfire risk reduction plan

Staff will report on progress in three months

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Nov. 25, 2020

Ivan, centre, and Tennette Dechkoff, right, stop to chat with a friend on Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. Starting Dec. 1 masks will be mandatory in public spaces across the Yukon in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Masks mandatory in public places starting on Dec. 1

“The safe six has just got a plus one,” Silver said.

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Most Read