Tombstone mining plan plugs along

Canadian United Minerals owner Joel White is pressing ahead with plans to mine for gold in Tombstone Territorial Park. But the company is facing a lot of questions.

Canadian United Minerals owner Joel White is pressing ahead with plans to mine for gold in Tombstone Territorial Park.

But the company is facing a lot of questions as it wends its way through the Yukon’s regulatory regime in pursuit of a new five-year mining permit.

White wants to use helicopters to sling ore from the mine site every two weeks during the summer months.

He figures he can extract all the gold-rich rock within five years and that the project would have a negligible impact on the park.

“The project can be mentioned as an odd but creative shared use of one small area of the park due to a rich deposit found by astute and enterprising prospectors and geologists,” said White in an upbeat pitch to assessors last fall.

White submitted his plans to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board 10 months ago. He’s still waiting for assessors to begin soliciting comments on the project.

This is White’s second shot at getting a new mining licence. His previous plan, to haul gold-rich ore along a winter trail by snowmobile, was rejected by the territorial government in September 2010, for fear the project would tarnish the park’s iconic image.

If the new project gets the go-ahead, backcountry hikers at the Talus Lake campsite may hear the occasional boom of dynamite exploding. The campsite is within three kilometres of White’s Horn claims where he intends to blast apart surface rock, before digging a series of shallow trenches with a small excavator.

Warning visitors of planned blasting “would go a long way in avoiding negative surprises,” wrote White.

Campers would be welcome at his exploration camp, White wrote, “to share the camp location for tenting or to learn about mineral deposits as they are found in the Tombstone batholith.”

Helicopters would avoid flying along Grizzly Valley as originally proposed. Assessors expressed concerns that vehicle traffic would disturb bears in the area.

Helicopters would, however, still fly over the park’s iconic Tombstone Pass, using “the shortest route” and approaching the camp from the south.

White proposes to dig 20 trenches. Each would be approximately eight metres long, three to four metres wide and one and a half metres deep.

White said pains would be taken to minimize the site’s footprint. The excrement of workers would be double-bagged and flown out, a nearby colony of collared pikas would be studiously avoided, and after development, native seeds would be scattered over trails to encourage the tundra to regrow.

But these commitments may be overshadowed by assessors’ ongoing concerns with the project. To date, White has received four requests for additional information on subjects ranging from sheep habitat to the potential for waste rock to leach acid.

And White must also contend with his own past record as a messy miner.

Until the Horn camp was cleaned up last fall, White had left behind leaking fuel barrels, explosives, unfilled trenches and an excavator.

And at another of his mining camps in the Dawson area, he didn’t report a 15,100-litre diesel spill and repeatedly ignored requests to clean up his work site.

Last fall, “at great expense and effort,” he said a work crew cleaned up the Horn camp. It removed rubbish, heavy equipment, old fuel drums and several tonnes of contaminated soil, filled in most trenches, buryied drill core and safely stored the remaining fuel on site.

But that wasn’t good enough for territorial mining inspector Jim Leary, who once again deemed the site to be “inadequate” after his last inspection.

“This property has had a significant cleanup and organizing. None of these activities has been completed to the extent required to meet the final decommissioning conditions,” states his Sept. 14 report.

Leary found unfilled trenches, unburied drill core and plastic in a nearby stream.

Although White had been ordered to tear down the camp and remove all fuel, he hadn’t.

White protested that the inspection was unduly harsh, in a Jan. 2 letter.

“Nothing was left at the site to cause any deleterious effects on wildlife,” he wrote. “Inert objects, one small burning barrel that was still smouldering upon departure from the site and left covered, some empty beverage containers scattered on the table inside the building, some wire – these are not extreme circumstances that merit punishment.”

Canadian Minerals staked the Horn property shortly before the territorial government banned staking in the area, during the leadup to the creation of the park. Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation once tried to fight the Horn claims in court, arguing that the exploration project contravened their land claims agreement. But the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed its appeal for a hearing in 2007, after lower courts ruled against the First Nation.

Both parties accuse one another of failing to communicate, with White asserting in his letter that “efforts to contact or communicate with the First Nation were not reciprocated, but rather accusatory comments were made that no consultation had taken place.”

White’s last bid to renew his mining licence for the Horn property also resulted in a campaign against the project launched by environmental groups. Assessors received approximately 600 letters, nearly all of which opposed White’s plans.

“Many respondents were from overseas or other countries, not understanding fully the nature of the Yukon’s reality. Such a small project is often confused with much larger interests by those who are very emotional about the sanctity of protected spaces,” wrote White.

“The negativity against mining, at this point in civilization, is painfully hypocritical, as everyone in the world benefits from the products of mineral deposits, their understanding and development.”

White asserts that regulators ought to put the interests of “residents in the mineral exploration and extraction business” ahead of “visitors on a ‘once in a lifetime’ one-week tour.”

He didn’t return several calls from the News.

Contact John Thompson at

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

Just Posted

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read