A sign indicates mining activity on the Dome Road in Dawson. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Premier, officials in Dawson to discuss Dome Road mining dispute

Residents protest plans to explore for gold in area overlapping ski trails

A group of territorial government officials, including Premier Sandy Silver, will be in Dawson City Oct. 27 for a meeting with concerned citizens about a controversial placer miner’s plan to do exploration work on his claims east of Dome Road this winter.

In newspaper ads and notices posted on-site last week, miner Darrell Carey says he will be doing exploration work on some of his claims starting Oct. 30 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., with work to be completed by April 30, 2018.

“The public is warned that when in the area they must take reasonable care, use the trails and access points at their own risk and avoid areas where placer operations are occurring,” the notice reads.

That timeframe happens to overlap with the almost the entire skiing season in Dawson, Klondike Active Transport and Trails Society president Cathie Findlay-Brook said.

“This came as a real shock and a surprise to everyone that just in time for ski season, someone is going to be doing mineral exploration.… How can we safely ski on those trails if that is going on?” Findlay-Brook asked.

The shock is partly because, Findlay-Brook said, Carey’s application to start mining his claims was rejected by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board back in the summer of 2016. His application had been met with concern from the Dawson community and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, who said several of Carey’s placer claims overlapped with an area designated for economic development in its final agreement. Following the YESAB rejection, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources sent a mediator to Dawson who was supposed to write a report on how the community and Carey could move forward in a “collaborative way.”

“We still haven’t received (the report), but in the meantime, this ad in the newspaper … announced that we was about to begin his exploration of the trails,” Findlay-Brook said.

KATTS raised its concerns to the City of Dawson in a letter and at a council meeting — to which several of its members showed up dressed in ski gear and holding ski poles — as well as to Silver, who is also MLA for the region, Findlay-Brook said. She then received an email requesting that KATTS meet with Silver, whose home in Dawson looks over Carey’s claims, Energy, Mines & Resources Deputy Minister Stephen Mills and “some officials” to discuss Carey and his notice. The meeting is scheduled to take place in Mayor Wayne Potoroka’s office at 10:30 a.m.

In the legislative assembly Oct. 25, Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai told reporters he felt it was an “obligation” for his department to send officials to Dawson, acknowledging that Carey’s notices have “drawn great concern from stakeholders.”

“It’s more defining what the exploration can look like, and speaking a little bit about the direction we also have received in that process from Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in,” Pillai said, adding that Carey’s work on his claims has been a “challenging issue for many sides” going back to his neighbouring Slinky mine, for which he convinced the Yukon government to re-route Dome Road to accommodate the operation.

Pillai said the mediation report is still being finalized.

It’s unclear if Carey will be present at the Oct. 27 meeting, but his long-time agent, Randy Clarkson, said Carey was aware of the opposition to his exploration plan.

“He’s kind of in a Catch-22 because he needs to do work to keep up the assessment work on his claims and he has equipment and time to do that now,” Clarkson said in a phone interview Oct. 26. “Imagine if you had a farm and somebody had ski trails going across it and you thought, ‘Oh, that’s really cute, that’s wonderful,’ and then you wanted to expand your corn patch and they said, ‘No, you can’t do that because there’s ski trails there.’ You’d probably be a little bit ticked, you know what I mean? And that’s kind of where Darrell is.”

Clarkson added that Carey had, in fact, come up with a plan to build alternate ski trails in the area but the idea was rejected by KATTS, and the trails that skiiers currently use are actually Carey’s old exploration trails anyway.

“They’ve just moved in on his land and made ski trails and built a little ski shack and that’s why he’s frustrated,” Clarkson said. “I mean, he had those claims way pre-existing the Dawson City boundary expansion. It used to be out of the city of Dawson not that long ago… He’s not had any favours.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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