The Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation is raising concerns about a placer mining proposal near the Dome Road in Dawson City.
The First Nation says 11 of the 31 placer claims Darrell Carey wants to mine for 10 years on the east side of the Dome Road overlap with an area designated for economic development in its final agreement, known as the Dome Expansion Area (DEA). Carey’s proposal is currently under review by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.
According to the final agreement, if the area is subdivided for sale to the public, the First Nation is to be given the opportunity to buy up to 30 per cent of the lots.
“TH (Tr’ondek Hwech’in) is concerned that any placer mining activities … could affect the value of the DEA for development and for future residential acquisition and use by TH,” wrote Darren Taylor, the First Nation’s director of natural resources, in a letter to YESAB.
The letter explains that the area hasn’t yet been subdivided, meaning it’s not possible to predict which lots Tr’ondek Hwech’in might want to purchase, or what the economic impact of mining the area might be.
“Should the DEA be subject to mining activities, TH strongly believes both the monetary and intrinsic value of the area for future uses would be negatively affected,” Taylor wrote.
Some of the claims also overlap with Tr’ondek Hwech’in settlement land. Taylor’s letter claims that Carey has provided no details about what mining activities are proposed for that land.
But Randy Clarkson, Carey’s agent, said the final agreement doesn’t give Tr’ondek Hwech’in the right to dictate what kind of activity happens in the Dome Expansion Area before any plans are made to build a subdivision.
“To me it’s like a right of first refusal,” he said of the agreement. “It’s not really any form of tenure at all.”
He believes it’s unlikely that the City of Dawson would choose to build a subdivision there at all.
However, the city does have plans to develop an area on the west side of the Dome Road that overlaps with other claims belonging to Carey. In 2014, the Yukon government agreed to reroute the Dome Road to make it easier for Carey to mine those claims. In return, Carey agreed to finish mining the area by the end of 2017 and to surrender some or all of the claims for residential development.
Clarkson said those kinds of settlements can be negotiated with placer miners to resolve conflicts.
But Tr’ondek Hwech’in isn’t alone in its opposition to Carey’s plans.
The Klondike Active Transport and Trails Society (KATTS) is also concerned that mining will destroy cross-country ski trails in the area. The society submitted a letter to YESAB in June asking what portion of the ski trails would be disturbed and what commitment Carey has made to maintaining trails.
“Basically, it looks like it covers most of the ski area except for the very beginning of the trails,” said KATTS president Cathie Findlay-Brook.
Carey has offered to build new exploration trails that residents could use for skiing in the winter, to compensate for the trails he disturbs.
But Findlay-Brook said she’s not sure there’s room in the area for new trails. “Most of the land that is not really steep in that area has already been used for residential use.”
She said KATTS would prefer that the project be withdrawn entirely.
Failing that, the society will ask that there be no net loss of trails, and that temporary trails be constructed at the end of each mining season.
Findlay-Brook said KATTS has had a difficult time communicating with Carey and Clarkson about the society’s concerns.
But Clarkson said he’s happy to speak with Tr’ondek Hwech’in and KATTS, provided they don’t simply demand that Carey stop mining. He pointed out that many of the existing ski trails are actually old placer mining exploration trails themselves.
“There are legal rights here,” he said. “Mr. Carey has the claims, they’re legal claims, he has the right to mine those claims.”
He said Carey just wants to get on with his work as a placer miner.
“He’s not going to hold a U.N. summit and invite ambassadors from all over the world to discuss this,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be that complicated.”
Carey has fought hard to keep these claims. In March, he won a bidding contest for 25 of the claims, which he had previously owned with Rod Adams. Carey and Adams ended up in court over ownership of the claims after a disagreement about how to operate them. Carey bid over $750,000, outbidding Adams by $34,000.
YESAB is accepting public comments about Carey’s proposal until Sept. 7. A public meeting will be held on Aug. 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Tr’ondek Hwech’in community hall in Dawson City.
Contact Maura Forrest at