Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) is asking everyone to stay off of a portion Montana Mountain until further notice as it assesses the possibility of contaminants from old mining operations becoming airborne.
Frank James, C/TFN’s director of heritage and natural resources, said in an interview June 25 that the C/TFN development corporation recently forwarded longstanding concerns that winds could be picking up contaminants from the Arctic Gold and Silver mine and spreading them further.
As result, C/TFN’s land management board recently voted to close off that portion of the mountain to all activity until an environmental safety assessment is completed.
The contaminants include arsenic and cadmium, some of which are already found in high concentration in some bodies of water and soil.
“Potentially, with the wind blowing, we can’t say it’s a fact … whether it’s safe or not,” James said, noting that the closure was a recommendation, not a ban on entry.
“It’s a tough decision for everyone, but at this same time, there’s been this ongoing concern around the whole area and over the past 10 years, we’ve been working on trying to clean up sites around our territory … Canada has an obligation to clean this up and they are, and they’re working on it.”
Besides being a world-class hiking and mountain biking destination, with trails constructed and maintained by C/TFN youth every summer via the Singletrack to Success project, Montana Mountain is also spiritually and historically significant for C/TFN.
The trails had been closed earlier this year as part of a larger shut-down of services and amenities in the Carcross area due to COVID-19, but James emphasized that the current recommendation to stay away is not related to the pandemic and also applies to C/TFN citizens.
“We’re not going to be able to stop someone, but we’re not recommending any of our people go up there,” James said.
“And I know we have avid bikers, we have youth … Their dream is to be working on the trails and they love to do that … It’s difficult for both sides at this point, but we are hoping to look at it as soon as we hear back from Environment (Yukon) on the state of the area.
“We just want to make sure (the contaminants) aren’t getting airborne.”
The Venus mine area by Windy Arm has also been closed for similar testing.
Other areas of Montana Mountain, such as the portion near Conrad, remain open.
James said that C/TFN has contacted Environment Yukon and while it isn’t certain yet when the testing would take place, the First Nation will give updates as soon as possible.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org