Yukon miner Tony Beets, a star of Discovery Channel’s reality television series Gold Rush, and his company Tamarack Inc. have been fined $31,000 for violating the Yukon Waters Act after a subcontractor poured gasoline into a pond in 2014 and another employee set it on fire.
The incident was caught on camera and aired in the episode, “100 Ounces.” The footage was later used as evidence in a trial earlier this year. Beets was found guilty of permitting the deposit of waste into water in a water management area and failing to report having done so. Tamarack Inc. was also found guilty of those charges, as well as two counts of failing to comply with the conditions of its water licence.
In his sentencing decision in a Whitehorse courtroom Friday, territorial court judge Peter Chisholm called the case a “unique facts situation” that was without precedent.
“On the one hand, the amount of fuel deposited into the pond was relatively small,” Chisholm said. “On the other hand, with Mr. Beets featuring prominently this illegal behaviour was broadcast widely via a popular television program.”
In the footage filmed Oct. 4, 2014, welder Mark Favron, who pleaded guilty and paid a $1,725 fine for his role in the incident, is seen pouring about a gallon to a gallon and a half of gasoline in a dredge pond at Eureka Creek near the Indian River. After it’s set on fire in what the narrator calls a “Viking baptism,” Beets is filmed standing in front of the blaze with his arms outstretched, triumphantly declaring to the camera, “I told you guys, ‘come hell or high water!’”
Chisholm said that although Beets and Tamarack Inc. don’t “have a history of this type of behaviour, they appear to possess little insight into the seriousness of these offences” and that Beets “failed to scuttle the ill-conceived plan despite having the opportunity to do so.”
Chisholm was also critical of the failure of Beets or Tamarack to report the polluting, noting that the “contraventions would likely have gone unnoticed but for the airing of the television episode.”
“This incident displayed a lack of common sense and good judgement by those involved. It taints the reputation of the territory and does a disservice to the many individuals in the mining community who diligently follow the rules,” Chisholm said. “The bottom is line is that polluters, or those who are contemplating such activity, must be aware that violations of environmental legislation in this jurisdiction will be treated seriously by the courts.”
The judge gave Beets a $4,000 fine for permitting the deposit of waste into water and $2,000 for failing to report it. Tamarack Inc. was fined $10,000 and $5,000 for the same charges, respectively, and then $5,000 each for the two failures to comply with the conditions of its water licence.
Beets and Tamarack Inc. will have three months to pay the fines.
Beets and his lawyer, André Roothman, declined comment as they left the courthouse.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org