Tombstone deadline looms

Hundreds of letters of opposition have come forward following a local company's bid to explore for gold in Tombstone Park.

Hundreds of letters of opposition have come forward following a local company’s bid to explore for gold in Tombstone Park.

Canadian United Minerals, which has held quartz claims in the park since 1997, applied this spring to drill, blast and excavate for gold.

The application prompted people from across North America to contact the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board to voice their concern.

“I have fond memories of visiting the Yukon a number of years ago,” wrote Californian Maureen Grier.

“The pristine beauty of the area was truly wonderful. I am very concerned about how mining will affect the rivers and the habitat of wildlife.”

Grier is one of more than 300 people who wrote a letter to the assessment board following a national campaign launched by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society late last week. Letters have poured in from people all over North America.

Dall sheep and caribou that roam the Cloudy Range of the Ogilvie Mountains would be at risk if the exploration project were approved, letter writers warned.

Canadian United Minerals’ 18 claims lie in an area that is difficult to access by road and fears have been raised that noise from helicopters and trampled-down trails from weighted snowmachines would affect nearby wildlife populations.

Exploration could also mean tourism operators may lose business and the iconic status of the park would be tarnished.

“Tombstone has become the visual image of the Yukon in tourism circles, and we’re going to allow mineral exploration there?” said the Yukon Conservation Society’s Lewis Rifkind.

“If we’re headed towards a mine, does that mean the mine will become a symbol of the park? Because you can kiss all the ecotourism goodbye right there.”

Rifkind points to a recent article in the Globe and Mail that lists the Tombstone Traverse as one of the top five hikes in Canada. That writer referred to the park as the “Patagonia of the North.”

Mining in Tombstone park has been a contentious issue since 1999 when the Tr’ondek Hwech’in requested the land be named a territorial park.

Canadian United Minerals’ Horn claims are the only outstanding quartz claims in Tombstone park. When the land officially became a park in 2004, all other area prospectors withdrew their stakes.

The company was taken to court in 2003 by the First Nation and won the right to work its claims.

However, in 2005 the company stopped work on its claims. Now, Canadian United Minerals wants to excavate about 2,500 tonnes of material over the next five years.

The company said it is actively looking for alternative routes to transport overburden that wouldn’t compromise wildlife, according to a revised application it sent to the assessment board.

Neither company president Joel White or shareholder Sean Ryan could be reached for comment.

Comments will be accepted by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board until Thursday.

Contact Vivian Belik at vivianb@yukon-news.com

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