Proposed access road near Keno draws ire

A proposal for an all-season access road to a mineral deposit northeast of Keno City is attracting criticism from outfitters and others who use the area for traditional purposes.

A proposal for an all-season access road to a mineral deposit northeast of Keno City is attracting criticism from outfitters and others who use the area for traditional purposes.

ATAC Resources Ltd. wants to build 65 kilometres of road off the existing Hanson Lakes road to access the Tiger Gold deposit, part of its Rackla Gold project located 55 kilometres northeast of Keno.

The road would require eight or nine bridges for large stream crossings, and nearly 40 culverts for smaller crossings. Construction would cost about $11 million.

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board is currently reviewing ATAC’s proposal.

Chris McKinnon, who runs Bonnet Plume Outfitters, said he’s disgusted by the proposal. About 16 kilometres of the access road would run through his outfitting concession.

“I just can’t believe we’d even possibly entertain the idea of putting in an all-season road for exploration purposes,” he said. “That’s just insane. Ludicrous.”

McKinnon said the mining company hasn’t done proper research to determine what impacts the road would have on wildlife in the area. He also said the road will end close to the Peel watershed, and he worries that it could bring further industrial development into an area of pristine wilderness.

He said ATAC should have to rely on flying in or using winter roads. “You know what? You staked your claims going in there knowing it was remote,” he said. “You knew what you were getting into.”

First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun elder Jimmy Johnny said the road could increase hunting pressure in the region.

“I want to keep it the way it is because of the future generations to come behind us,” he said.

Johnny said there are traditional trails and grave sites in the area, and he worries they could be disturbed.

“I’m 71 years old now and I still try to go out as much as possible, as long as I’m able to. And I want to show the young people the country that I knew.”

Chris Widrig, who runs Widrig Outfitters, said the road is “a dagger pointed directly at the heart of the Peel.”

“Really what this is is a way for the mining company to try to save some money,” he said.

But ATAC CEO Graham Downs said the company might not be able to develop the project any further if it can’t build the road. ATAC has been flying into the site until now, but Downs said sonic drills and other heavy equipment are now needed to advance the project.

“You can’t fly in sonic drills,” he said.

The company could use a winter road to drive in heavy equipment. But Downs said some of the rivers haven’t frozen over in recent years.

“You can’t really run a business or anything when you don’t know if you can actually get there,” he said.

Downs said ATAC has spent about $90 million on the project to date, of which $25 million was used to pay for flying fuel, drills, people and other equipment to the site.

If a mine were ever developed on the Rackla site, he said, the same route would be used for the access road.

The company has proposed two routes for the road, one of which would pass through Nacho Nyak Dun Category A settlement land. Downs said that route would allow the First Nation to control who comes and goes on the road.

“We’re still working through that,” he said. “That’ll be their decision if they’d like us to do that.”

Regardless of the route, Downs said, the company wants to keep the road private, and there would be a no-hunting policy in the area. He said placer miners and other commercial operations looking to use the road would have to be evaluated.

But McKinnon said there would be no way to keep the road private, especially after the mining company packs up and leaves.

“Bullshit. It doesn’t work,” he said. “What happens when this company’s defunct? Gone? It’s still a road.”

The First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun could not be reached by deadline and does not appear to have submitted comments to YESAB at this time.

The assessment board will be accepting public comments until Feb. 27.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Zhùr, the ancient wolf pup found mummified in permafrost at Last Chance Creek mine in July 2016. (Government of Yukon/Submitted)
‘Mummy’ wolf pup unearthed in permafrost paints a picture of ice age ancestors

Zhùr is the best preserved and most complete mummy of an ancient wolf found to date.

Former premier Tony Penikett begins a presentation at the Whitehorse Public Library about his book, Hunting the Northern Character, on Dec. 11, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former premier named to Order of Canada

Tony Penikett reflects on career

Ed Hopkins starts the 36-mile race at the Carbon Hill Race Day on Jan. 10. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Dogs take over Mount Lorne for Carbon Hill Race Day

The Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon (DPSAY) hosted its annual… Continue reading

As it gets set to turn over ownership of its supportive housing building downtown to Yukon Housing, Options For Independence will not be required to pay back more than $65,000 in City of Whitehorse grants it was provided towards property taxes, decided city councillors on Jan. 11. (John Hopkins-HIll/Yukon News file)
Exemption granted for building transfer

Options For Independence won’t be required to pay back city grants

Mayor Dan Curtis speaks during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on March 9, 2020. Whitehorse property owners can expect their 2021 property tax bills to rise by less than a per cent if the operating budget for the year is adopted as proposed. “A minimal tax increase allows the city to maintain its many existing services and programs, while also supporting important initiatives such as climate change mitigation and enhanced bylaw enforcement,” Curtis said. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Minimal increase proposed for Whitehorse property taxes

Budget would see 0.34 per cent tax increase

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Mayo-Tatchun MLA Don Hutton won’t be runing for re-election. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mayo-Tatchun MLA won’t run for re-election

Liberal MLA Don Hutton won’t be running for re-election. A former wildland… Continue reading

Large quantities of a substance believed to be cocaine, a large amount of cash, several cells phones and a vehicle were all seized after RCMP searched a Whistle Bend home on Jan. 6. (Photo courtesy RCMP)
Seven arrested after drug trafficking search

RCMP seized drugs, money from Whistle Bend residence on Jan. 6

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Whitehorse RCMP are seeing a growing trend of vehicle break-and-enters in the Kopper King area. (Black Press file)
Series of break-and-enters in Kopper King area

Series of break-and-enters in Kopper King area Whitehorse RCMP are seeing a… Continue reading

Signage near the newly opened Dawson City ice bridge. (Sandy Silver/Facebook)
Dawson City ice bridge opens

The Dawson ice bridge has opened. In a Jan. 6 social media… Continue reading

Whitehorse RCMP are requesting assistance identifying three suspects who stole tens of thousands of dollars of property from Cobalt Construction on the evenings of Dec. 28, 29, and 30. They were operating a stolen Toyota Camry, which was beige in colour with the license plate HML66. (Photo courtesy RCMP)
RCMP seeking three suspects after burglary

Whitehorse RCMP are requesting assistance identifying three suspects who stole tens of… Continue reading

Most Read