Tombstone mining project dumped

Canadian United Minerals won't be driving snowmachines and flying helicopters through Tombstone Park this winter. The Yukon government has barred the local mining company from searching for gold there.

Canadian United Minerals won’t be driving snowmachines and flying helicopters through Tombstone Park this winter.

The Yukon government has barred the local mining company from searching for gold there.

The company would have to cut through environmentally sensitive habitat to get to the gold, which is tucked deep into the park, said a recommendation last month by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

Mining would also affect trappers and tourism operators who work in the park as well as tarnish Tombstone’s iconic image.

Energy, Mines and Resources agreed with the assessment board’s recommendations.

“Access was a key issue for us,” said mining and lands manager Tim Smith.

“We were looking at the effect on wildlife and the terrain.”

Company owner Joel White’s past mining record did not play a role in the government’s decision, he said.

White left behind leaking fuel barrels, unattended explosives and unfilled trenches at his exploration camp in Tombstone Park, which he has worked since the late ‘90s.

At another such camp near Dawson, he didn’t report a 15,100-litre diesel spill and repeatedly ignored requests to clean up his worksite.

When it came to his Tombstone operation, the park’s reputation was a consideration.

“There are special features in the park that need to be protected,” said Smith.

Canadian United Minerals’ Horn claims are the only outstanding gold claims in the park.

When Tombstone officially became a territorial park in 2004, all the area’s miners relinquished their claims except for Canadian United Minerals.

Though the government and assessment board recommended against White’s Tombstone project, his claims there remain in good standing, said Smith.

The company just needs to redesign its proposal, he said.

White isn’t planning to abandon the “millions” of dollars of gold in Tombstone that easily, he said in a previous interview with the News.

“I would wheelbarrow (the gold) out one load at a time,” he said when asked what would happen if the government decided against the project.

He also floated the idea of being bought out by the government.

But the government denies any conversations like that have happened.

The Yukon Conservation Society is happy with the government’s decision, but warns the issues in Tombstone Park aren’t completely resolved.

“Given that YESAB only looks at specific project proposals it didn’t really address the bigger issue of how do we get those claims out of there? That’s next on the agenda, I think,” said the society’s energy critic, Lewis Rifkind.

The territory needs a better way to regulate free-entry staking in areas with environmental values and competing economic interests, he said.

There’s still the issue of mining within communities that needs to be resolved, Rifkind added.

“At the moment, you can stake in Dawson and Whitehorse and look at the problem that’s causing.”

But he’s relieved steps are being taken to protect the park, whatever those motivations are.

“I got the sense YTG has invested a lot in Tombstone Park,” said Rifkind.

“They have pumped a lot of money and resources into Tombstone and maybe they were worried they were putting their investments at stake.”

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com